South Africa's Stellenbosch University, the first Afrikan university to build a satellite, is expected to be launching a nanosatellite (ZA-Aerosat) in partnership with South African company, Cube Space, to the International Space Station by Tuesday, 28 March 2017.
ZA-Aerosat nanosatellite, a 2U nanosatellite that weighs 2kg with four feather communication antennas. | Cube Space
The ZA-Aerosat, the only nanosatellite from Afrika, will be taken to Delft in the Netherlands where it is to be packagd with other nanosatellites and sent to the United States of America's NASA where it will be transported with the other nanosatellites to the International Space Station (ISS).
ZA-Aerosat forms part of the QB50 project whose aim is to launch 50 nanosatellites (CubeSats) – each nanosatellite approximately 10 cm x 10 cm x 20 cm − from the ISS to collect measurements from the lower thermosphere between 200 km and 400 km above Earth.
The QB50 project forms part of the atmospheric modelling research carried out by the European Space Agency to predict the results of space objects penetrating the earth's atmosphere more accurately.
The European Space Agency has thus asked Stellenbosch University and Cube Space to supply 15 control units (attitude determination and control systems [ADCSs]) to other satellites in the QB50 project.
Computer model of the ZA-AeroSat nanosatellite in orbit.
"They're therefore helping out where other participants don't have enough experience in satellite control systems. It's a huge challenge to keep a satellite within 10 degrees of the orbiting direction," said Prof Herman Steyn, head of the project and founder of CubeSpace in 2016 when talking about the project.
It is reported that once on the ISS, astronauts will then release the nanosatellites into space approximately a month later. The ZA-AerosSat's in-orbit lifetime is said to be approximately three months from deployment to de-orbit.