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SpaceX set to launch Africa’s first constellation of satellites

The Marine Domain Awareness (MDASat) constellation made up of the three locally produced nanosatellites will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Picture: Supplied

The Marine Domain Awareness (MDASat) constellation made up of the three locally produced nanosatellites will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 13, 2022

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Cape Town - The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) is gearing up to have its third satellite mission launched into space.

SpaceX, founded by Pretoria-born Elon Musk, will be launching the constellation this afternoon from the Cape Canaveral launch site in the US, at 5.25pm South Africa time.

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The Marine Domain Awareness (MDASat) constellation made up of the three locally produced nanosatellites will have two main priorities, namely ocean economy and health care, and has been mandated by the Department of Science and Innovation to enhance South Africa’s ocean sovereignty.

CPUT’s acting chief engineer on the project, Nyameko Royi, said: “This mission will 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.”

The SpaceX mission name is Transporter-3 or ISILaunch 36P, and the rocket to be used is the Falcon 9.

The Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology invested R27 million over three years in the development of the MDASat constellation.

In a statement, Minister Blade Nzimande noted that a lack of space professionals and engineers had prompted the department and the National Research Foundation (NRF) to initiate a human capital development programme at CPUT under the French South African Institute of Technology cube satellite programme, with the introduction of a Master’s in Electrical Engineering focusing on satellite systems.

“This will further cement South Africa’s position as an African leader in small satellite development,” said Dr Nzimande.

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Members of the public will be able to watch the launch live at www.spacex.com/launches, with the webcast starting 10-15 minutes before lift-off and ending shortly after the payload deployment.

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Cape Argus

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