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Thursday, 07 October 2021

CPUT designs fourth satellite mission

INNOVATION: A CAD view of M2MSat satellite and the Software Defined Radio payload for M2MSat. INNOVATION: A CAD view of M2MSat satellite and the Software Defined Radio payload for M2MSat.

As the global community celebrates World Space Week, the CPUT is currently developing its fourth satellite mission, called M2MSat.

The M2MSat follows on from the University’s successful development, launch and operation of the ZACube-1 and ZACube-2 satellite missions. The Institution also developed the MDASat-1 constellation which is scheduled for launch this summer to demonstrate its current Automatic Identification System (AIS) capabilities in a constellation.

Africa Space Innovation Centre and French South African Institute of Technology (F'SATI) Director, Prof Robert van Zyl highlights the importance of the Operation Phakisa, a fast-track implementation of the South African National Development Plan, which focuses on two key areas; ocean economy and healthcare.  “With the expansion of South African waters, a special need is emerging for effective Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).”

M2MSat is being built on this heritage by focusing on MDA, expanding the on-orbit data gathering capacity of the payload and adding payload features. “The M2MSat mission will continue growing expertise within CPUT and its key technology partners and validate the technology innovations that result from it, Van Zyl explains.

Earlier this year, the University successfully presented M2MSat’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) to its stakeholders. The Software-Defined Radio payload also passed its Critical Design Review (CDR) phase in June 2021. 

“It is envisaged that the launch of the M2MSat constellation can be at the end of 2022 or early 2023.”

He says the M2MSat consists of two 3U form factor CubeSat nanosatellites, each carrying a payload designed to track ships in the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).    Van Zyl adds that the M2MSat mission will demonstrate the very high frequency (VHF) Data Exchange System (VDES) capabilities of a new Software Defined Radio (SDR) payload for satellite-to-ship and ship-to-satellite communication. “The M2MSat mission hosts an improved payload compared to ZACube-2 and MDASat-1. Some of the additional improvements are that the SDR payload can transmit and receive in the marine VHF band.

“A portal (website) shall also be implemented as part of the ground segment to allow end-users to upload and download Data Exchange System (VDE)S data to and from maritime nodes,” Van Zyl remarks. The M2MSat mission is funded by the Technology Innovation Agency which is an agency of the Department of Science and Innovation.

Written by Des