Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande says the Department of Science and Innovation's (DSI's) funding and support of South Africa's satellite construction industry is reaping rewards, as the country gears up for the launch of the first three satellites of its Maritime Domain Awareness Satellite (MDASat) constellation.
The full MDASat constellation will be an operational constellation of nine cube satellites that will detect, identify and monitor vessels in near real-time in support of South African maritime domain awareness.
The DSI is implementing this work through the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
The launch of the first three satellites (MDASat-1) follows three years after the launch of the most advanced South African nanosatellite to date, ZACube-2, as a technology demonstrator for the MDASat constellation.
"Since its launch in 2018, ZACube-2 has been providing cutting-edge very-high-frequency data exchange communication systems to the country's maritime industry, as a contribution to Operation Phakisa," Nzimande notes, adding that the DSI had invested R27-million over three years in the development of the MDASat constellation.
The MDASat-1 launch is highlighted as a significant milestone for South Africa, marking the first launch of a satellite constellation developed entirely on the African continent.
"This will further cement South Africa's position as an African leader in small satellite development and help the country capture a valuable share of a niche market in the fast-growing global satellite value chain," the Minister states.
The three MDASat-1 satellites are scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral, in the US, on January 13 at 17:25 South African Standard Time. This is the latest estimated time, but is subject to change depending on weather conditions.