Paarl’s Prof Marshall Sheldon part of satellite launch with SpaceX

On Thursday night, SpaceX, created by South African-born Elon Musk, is due to launch a set of tiny satellites developed by CPUT into orbit, helping to create the infrastructure to monitor shipping off SA’s coast.

The constellation is named for the MDA-Sat 1, which will monitor shipping in SA’s EEZ by way of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) radio system.

Government has described the launch as a “a significant milestone”, with R27 million from the Department of Science and Innovation put behind MDASat-1. 

The final constellation is due to consist of nine cubesats.

The satellites came out of a programme of the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) at CPUT, styled as a human capital development initiative.

In 2013 CPUT produced the ZACube-1, and in 2018 ZACube-2. MDASat-1 is the first South African mini-constellation.

Transporter-3 will be carried by a re-usable Falcon 9, in what has now become a standard approach for the company since SpaceX pioneered re-usable rockets.

Dean of the Engineering and Built Environment Faculty at CPUT Prof Marshall Sheldon said the MDASat launch is the latest development in a long timeline of space engineering events at the university, which first began in 2008.

“Each successful development and launch is a paradigm shift away from the traditional space industry norms and we are proud to be at the centre of that. Attracting more undergraduate and postgraduate learners to careers in space science will ensure we can continue celebrating future successes.”

Watch the launch here:

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