South Africa’s First Privately Owned Nanosatellite To Be Released Into Orbit

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

The nSight1 is the first privately owned nanosatellite which was designed and built in South Africa due for release into orbit from the International Space Station.

On Thursday, May 25, the South African nanosatellite will be injected into low-Earth, subject to International Space Station operations, for a mission that will last between 30 to 60 days as the space station orbits the Earth, making history as a result.

As part of the group of 28 nanosatellites from a total of 23 different countries that were launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 18 April, 2017, the nSight1 was transported to the International Space Station on a Cygnus cargo spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, according to BrandSA.

SCS Space, a Cape Town-based member of the SCS Aerospace Group, South Africa’s largest privately owned group of satellite companies, is the primary contractor for South Africa’s nSight1 nanosatellite, with joint-funding by both SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions allowing for the project to take place.

The nanosatellite was designed, integrated and tested by a team of engineers from the Space Advisory Company and assembled at NewSpace Systems’ European Space Agency (ESA) certified clean room production facility, with both companies forming part of the SCS Aerospace Group, according to DefenceWeb.

Three payloads for SA’s first privately owned nanosatellite

South Africa’s nSight1 and the other nanosatellites launched will be used for telecommunications as well as research and data-gathering for atmospheric study as part of the European Commission’s QB50 project.

Three payloads will be carried by nSight1 upon being released into orbit. The first is the scientific instrumentation for in-site thermosphere analysis as part of the QB50 project.

The second nSight1 payload is the ‘SCS Gecko Imager’, which SCS Aerospace Group will test during the mission. The Gecko is an ultra-compact imager that provides RGB imaging at high frame rates, large integrated high-speed data storage and a compact form factor that is optimised for integration with 2U or larger CubeSat frames.

The SCS Gecko multispectral imager will take its first photos with the help of the South African Amateur Radio Community, which will enhance the download capacity using their distributed home based receivers.

The third payload on the satellite was provided by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique, demonstrating the partnership between SCS Aerospace Group and the university in satellite technology.

During the days following the orbit release, the SCS Space ground operations team will take over mission control of the satellite, establishing contact and communicating with the nanosatellite from its new ground station situated near Houwteq in Grabouw, an hour away from Cape Town.

A series of health check procedures of the three payloads will then take place, after which time the commissioning process will allow for the tasking of the satellite in accordance with the mission objectives and operational deployment.

Hendrik Burger, chief executive officer for SCS Space explained the procedure and thanked the company’s partners for helping to make the historic mission possible.

“The first QB50 payload data will be collected and reported to the prime investigators, von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. This will be done every second day for the first six months of the satellite in-orbit life,” Burger said, according to an SCS Space statement.

“We are delighted to be a part of this international project which has put South Africa on the international satellite map.

“Thank you to all our project partners including Pinkmatter Solutions, Space Advisory Company, NewSpace Systems, Stellenbosch University, CubeSpace, Simera Technology Group, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, DeltaV Aerospace, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Amateur Radio Society,” he added.

Among the 28 nanosatellites to be released from the International Space Station is ZA-Aerosat, a second South African nanosatelline that was designed and manufactured by CubeSpace of Stellenbosch University.