Monday, 10 January 2022

CPUT launches 3rd Satellite mission this week Featured

On Thursday 13 January the Cape Peninsula University of Technology is set to launch its third satellite mission into space from the Cape Canaveral launch site in the USA.

The MDASat (Marine Domain Awareness) constellation has two main priorities namely ocean economy and healthcare and has been mandated by the Department of Science and Innovation to enhance South Africa’s ocean’s sovereignty. Operation Phakisa, a fast track implementation of the National Development Plan, focuses on effective marine domain awareness. The Software Defined Radio payload being used in the mission aims to enhance the security and protection of South African marine resources.

MDASat is CPUT’s third satellite mission and follows on from ZACUBE-1 (TshepisoSat) and ZACUBE-2’s successful development, launch and operation. In the interim, a suite of commercial CubeSat parts have also been developed by CPUT engineers and these will also be in use on the satellites.  

CPUT’s Acting Chief Engineer on the project Nyameko Royi says increased visibility in space by more nations bodes well for all.

“This mission would mark the first constellation of satellites developed and designed in Africa. The more we get people involved in space the better, the more data we extract from space- the better for the world. This is a significant milestone for CPUT and South Africa,” he says.

Dean of the Engineering and Built Environment Faculty at CPUT Prof Marshall Sheldon says the MDASat launch is the latest development in a long timeline of space engineering events at the university, which first began in 2008.

“Each successful development and launch is a paradigm shift away from the traditional space industry norms and we are proud to be at the center of that. Attracting more undergraduate and postgraduate learners to careers in space science will ensure we can continue celebrating future successes,” she says.   


MDASat Specs

The first three satellites of the MDA constellation will carry an upgraded AIS receiver payload from ZACube-2 and will be capable of the following;

  •        Over the air upgrades which means software can be developed and uploaded to the orbiting satellite when ready.
  •        Raw date: The payload captures raw data and enhances the opportunity for diagnostic testing on signal interference and decoding messages.
  •        Long Range AIS: These are two specific channels to be used as uplinks for receiving AIS messages by satellite.
  •        More effective messaging scheme: The first generation payload was limited in how it could save data and have it extracted by the ground station. The enhanced data interface will optimize the use of the data transmitter’s bandwidth.

These enhancements pave the way for the future MDASat-2’s development and launch and minimizes the risk of damage to the current payload.  

SpaceX, the company founded by SA born entrepreneur Elon Musk, will be launching the constellation on 13 January 2022 at 17:25pm (Florida time 10:25am).

Members of the media and public can watch the launch live using this link the webcast starts about 10 to 15 minutes before lift-off and ends shortly after payload deployment.


Written by Lauren Kansley

Tel: +27 21 953 8646

Liaises with the media and writes press releases about interesting developments at CPUT.