On Thursday, November 21, 2013 the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, made history by being the first in South Africa, and indeed the first in Africa, to launch a locally built nano satellite into orbit from a site in Russia.
Deon Coetzee, ZR1DE, who represented SA AMSAT at a ceremony held in the auditorium at the university campus reports that Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vuyisa Mazwi-Tonga, paid tribute to all at the university who made this achievement possible, and said she was immensely proud of being part of it all.
Original known as ZACube-1, the satellite has been named TshepisoSat, after a competition held for Grade 9 learners. Tshepiso is the seSotho word meaning promise.
The launch was the culmination of five years’ work after the first proposal to build a small satellite as part of the engineering curriculum was put forward by Professor Robert van Zyl in February 2008. Co-operation of the French Government made possible the forming of F’SATI and the French Ambassador in South Africa, Elizabeth Barbier, during a video address, promised continued support by France for the programme.
ZACUBE-1 was one of fourteen cubesats aboard the thirty metre tall, three stage rocket. All the cubesats were successfully released at a height of 600 km above the Earth. TshepisoSat will circle the Earth up to fifteen times per day in a polar orbit.
“At 11h13 the first signals from ZACUBE-1 were received amongst loud cheers”, Deon said. According to Francois Visser, ZS1CED, who was the principal engineer and student mentor, the satellite was functioning well. The satellite also includes a small camera which will be used to monitor the releases of the 20 metre beacon antenna. The beacon will operate on 14099 kHz and will be used to characterise the Superdarn antennas at the Antarctic which are used to study the ionosphere. A UHF beacon operates on 437.345 MHz.
Follow progress at http://www.cput.ac.za/fsati and http://www.amsatsa.org.za/
The second of the 14 CubeSats of interest to radio amateurs is FUNcube. The satellite is an AMSAT-UK project built in conjunction with ISIS. The first signals from FUNcube were received by Alan Soal, ZS1LS, about 10 minutes after separation, telemetry was successfully decoded, and uploaded to the FUNcube data warehouse. All main parameters on FUNcube look nominal; temp, battery voltage, and solar panel charging rate.
FUNcube carries several interesting payloads and has already been given an OSCAR designation, AMSAT-Oscar-73. Follow FUNcube on http://www.funcube.org.uk/