South Africa invests R18.9 million in new ‘nanosatellites’

The Department of Science and Innovation has invested R18.9 million in the development of two nanosatellites which are aimed at increased maritime awareness in South Africa.

It is the first such initiative for the country to provide communication services to the maritime industry, the department said on Thursday (25 March).

“The funding was channelled through the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an entity of the DSI, to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), an institution that is playing a leading role in growing space science and technology in South Africa.

“The university has developed cutting-edge nanosatellites and cube satellites (CubeSats) over the years, demonstrating advanced technological capabilities in the country’s space industry,” the department said.

The two maritime industry nanosatellites will be powered by “M2MSat” technology, in the form of cutting-edge VHD Data Exchange System (VDES) software-defined radios for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

A software-defined radio (SDR) system uses software for the modulation and demodulation of radio signals, performing significant amounts of signal processing in a general-purpose computer. The technology brings flexibility, cost-efficiency and power to drive communications forward, with wide-reaching benefits.

The SDR technology will provide emerging M2M and Internet of things applications capable of delivering complex analytics and ubiquitous positioning of high-value assets, as well as mission-critical services, at a lower cost than the deployment of traditional satellite systems.

“The development and commercialisation of the M2MSat platform will position South Africa as a key contributor of innovation in the space sector globally, feeding into the space value chain, growing partnerships with industry, and fast-tracking the creation and exploitation of space knowledge and innovation,” the department said.

It added that plans are underway to develop Denel’s Overberg Test Range (OTR) in the Western Cape as a facility to launch future CubeSats developed by the CPUT.

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South Africa invests R18.9 million in new ‘nanosatellites’