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Satellite-based maritime monitoring system for South Africa being developed by company

7th November 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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South African space infrastructure company SCS Space is mobilising the country’s space engineering supply chain to build a satellite-based service to monitor South Africa’s maritime domain, company CEO Dr Sias Mostert exclusively informs Engineering News.

SCS Space is exhibiting at the Group on Earth Observations Week and Ministerial Summit 2023, being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Currently, the South African National Space Agency is importing data to provide a maritime monitoring service at a rate of once a week.

The project, named FleetSAR, requires an investment of R5.4-billion. It already has a comprehensive funding structure in place. In addition to SCS Space, agencies participating in the project include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Development Bank of Southern Africa, international investors and the South African satellite engineering supply chain.

“One satellite is very good for mapping,” he points out. “But if you want to engage with human and natural processes on Earth, you need more regular coverage.”

Consequently, the maritime domain system would, in its first phase, deploy 12 satellites. These would allow South Africa’s maritime domain to be monitored at least once a day, often twice a day, and even, under some circumstances, four to six hours apart.

“Our focus is on a satellite design that is appropriate for the task,” he reports. “For this maritime domain project, the requirement is for satellites in the 600 kg mass category, with C-band synthetic aperture radar payloads.”

The project’s prefeasibility study has been completed. This was co-funded by SCS Holdings (which owns SCS Space) and the IDC. Phase Zero and Phase A have also been completed, and were co-funded by SCS Space and the CSIR.

‘The next milestone will be the bankable feasibility study,” he highlights. “The IDC has committed to join in the funding of this.”

SCS Space designs and coordinates space infrastructure development, that is, systems of satellites, ground stations, data processing services and interfaces with the end-users of the data. “We also do system engineering and assembly integration and testing of nanosatellites and provide system engineering and programme management expertise and services to develop space infrastructure,” he explains.

Another important focus of the company is human capacity development. It provides hands-on training for South African and international engineers. Currently, it has five people under training, but is hoping to increase this number, next year.  

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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