Successful launch of Tshepiso Sat


Congratulations on the successful launch of TshepisoSat (Code name ZA-CUBE1) – South Africa’s first cubesat!

SA’s first nano-satellite, code named ZACUBE-1, designed and built by Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) postgraduate students to monitor space weather, took off today from the Yasny Launch Base in Russia, on top of a RS-2OB Dnepr rocket. The tiny 1,2kg cube will travel 6-billion kilometres in space before re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere

Funded by the South African Department of Science & Technology, the nano-satellite was designed and built by CPUT postgraduate students participating in the Satellite Systems Engineering Programme at the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) in Bellville, in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). ZACUBE-1 has also received its official licence from the South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA) and will now be included in South Africa’s national register of space assets.

ZACUBE-1 will orbit earth up to 15 times a day at an altitude of 600km. “The launch of ZACUBE-1 marks a momentous achievement in the technology landscape of this country through the development of new and necessary skills and knowledge that will play a significant part in moving us toward a sought after knowledge economy,” said SANSA CEO, Dr. Sandile Malinga, who was speaking at CPUT’s Bellville campus today, where students and guests witnessed the launch (at 9.10am South African time), from the Yasny launch base, located in the Orenburg Region, Russia, via a live audio-feed.

“This new satellite will enable data gathering on space weather for SANSA which is integral to the understanding and monitoring of solar activity during this period of solar maxima,” he added. “This is a phenomenon that can have critical implications to the functionality of our technology and electrical power system on Earth as well as the operation of satellites.”

Measuring 10x10x10cm, ZACUBE-1 is about 100 times smaller than Sputnik 1, the first  satellite launched into space in 1957. It took 18 months, 30 000 hours of manpower and forty CPUT students to build and to finish the cube satellite, which contains 4,000 electronic components and runs on the same amount of power as a 3-watt bulb.

Professor Robert van Zyl, director of the F-SATI programme, said that despite its lightweight, the nano-satellite will provide valuable space weather data to the SANSA Space Science Directorate in Hermanus. Seven antennae elements spread over a 100 square metre area in Hermanus will receive the beacon payload signals, while two six metre-long antennae at the Ground Control Station at CPUT’s Bellville Campus will track the satellite, collect the data and issue commands.

He said that the programme was a great platform to train and skill students to participate in the space industry, as the South African space industry requires specialised skills. Owing to the lack of space professionals and engineers in this field, the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation initiated a human capacity development programme at CPUT under the F’SATI CubeSat Programme, with the introduction of a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering in 2009, with a focus on satellite systems engineering.

According to Van Zyl, the team at CPUT is already busy developing ZACUBE-2, which will be three times larger than the first CubeSat and will be used for Earth observation and space weather research. The team also contributes to the ZA-AeroSat mission, which is led by the University of Stellenbosch as part of the international QB50 programme, as part of which 50 CubeSats will be launched simultaneously in 2015.


Vaneshree Maharaj