Africa’s Most Advanced Nanosatellite Launched To Monitor Wildfires, Ocean Economy

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

South Africa has launched the continent’s most advanced nanosatellite into space to monitor and manage disasters such as fires and assist the ocean economy.

The ZACube-2 nanosatellite will provide state-of-the-art remote sensing and communication services to South Africa and the southern African region, according to Techcentral.

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Developed through a South African scientific program that promotes the country’s diversity, students of color and young women were major contributors to the finished nanosatellite.

Nanosatellites are defined as satellites that have a low mass and size, weighing anywhere between 2 to 22 pounds, according to Geospatialworld.

Africa’s most advanced nanosatellite

The small South African satellite, which weighs around nine pounds, will provide critical information for the country’s oceans economy and disaster management.

Authorities will monitor the ocean traffic as part of the country’s’s efforts to grow and maintain the ocean economy.

The movement of ships will be monitored along the South African coastline with its automatic identification system payload. This the most advanced nanosatellite launched by an African nation, according to TimesLive.

It will also be used to monitor wildfires and provide virtually real-time fire information for disaster management and emergency teams. The goal is a quicker response time.

nanosatellite
The ZACube-2 nanosatellite will provide advanced remote sensing and detection of wildfires. Image – AP – Col. Michael Wulfestieg

The ZACube-2 nanosatellite was launched at the end of December with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from the Vostochny spaceport, according to Defenceweb.

The South African contribution to the mission was accompanied by small satellites from the U.S., Japan, Spain and Germany, and is orbited as the secondary payload in a launch mission that is designed for real-time monitoring of natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies.

The market for small satellites such as the nanosatellite and microsatellite (20 to 220 pounds in weight) is estimated to be worth $1,88 billion in 2019, up from from $702.4 million in 2014, according to research firm Markets and Markets.

This is the second government-owned nanosatellite that South Africa has launched into space. The first was the TshepisoSat, which was launched in 2013, according to the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement.

Its main mission is to gather data on space weather for the South African National Space Agency. It was renamed TshepisoSat from its original ZACube-1 designation.

The ZACube-2 will not retain that name for much longer, as a national satellite naming competition launched in April by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement has produced a new name, which is yet to be announced, according to IOL.

The competition considered over 300 entries from school students across the country.