The Department of Science and Technology (DST) announced on Wednesday that South African nanosatellite nSight1 had been successfully launched from the International Space Station last week, on May 24. nSight1 was designed and built by SCS Space, part of the local SCS Aerospace Group, and is the country’s, and indeed Africa’s, first privately-owned nanosatellite.
“The satellite is an important milestone, demonstrating the outcome of the capability established through the Department of Science and Technology’s ongoing investment in the South African space programme,” highlighted DST deputy director-general: technology innovation Mmoboneni Muofhe. “More than 70% of the satellite is made up of satellite components supplied by enterprises in the South African space industry.”
The assembly of nSight1 took six months, and made use of South Africa’s entire space infrastructure. It is the fourth South African satellite launched into space, following Sunsat (launched in 1999), SumbandilaSat (2009) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology nanosatellite ZACube-1 (2013).
nSight1 is carrying three payloads, two of them from South Africa and one from Europe. It forms part of the European Commission’s QB50 project to explore a region of the atmosphere known as the lower thermosphere – hence the European payload, which is intended to analyse the lower thermosphere. QB50 involves 28 nanosatellites from 23 countries.
The second payload is SCS’s own Gecko imager. This extremely compact device provides Red/Green/Blue imaging at high frame rates, with considerable and fast data storage. Its design is optimised for use on two unit (2U) or larger nanosatellites. (NSight1 is a 2U design.)
The third payload comes from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. It is their patented Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique (VHDL stands for VHSIC Hardware Description Language; VHSIC stands for Very High Speed Integrated Circuit).
Mission control for the nanosatellite is the responsibility of SCS Space’s ground operations team. To this end, they are based at a new ground station at the Houwteq facility, near Grabouw in the Western Cape.