The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket, carrying nanosatellites from SA, the US, Spain and Germany, luanching on December 27 2018 from the Baikonur East in Serbia, Russia. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket, carrying nanosatellites from SA, the US, Spain and Germany, luanching on December 27 2018 from the Baikonur East in Serbia, Russia. Picture: SUPPLIED

A nanosatellite, considered to be SA’s most advanced to date, was launched into orbit from Russia on Thursday morning.

The ZACube-2 satellite, weighing at just 4kg, is SA's most advanced nanosatellite to date. Picture: SUPPLIED
The ZACube-2 satellite, weighing at just 4kg, is SA's most advanced nanosatellite to date. Picture: SUPPLIED

ZACube-2, which weighs just 4kg with dimensions of only a few centimetres, is expected to help advance SA’s ocean economy and monitor veld fires. The satellite was launched along with several others belonging to countries such as the US and Spain.

ZACube-2 will track ships off the country’s coastline using an automatic identification system. This is not only aimed at improving the logistics of registered and legally operating ships, but also to detect trespassers.

“The extent of looting of our fish resources, for example, represents a loss of billions of rands to criminal syndicates that can be nabbed through an effective monitoring and enforcement system,” the department of science and technology said in a statement.

The satellite is also part of a natural and man-made disaster monitoring project.

At this stage, ZACube-2 will only monitor veld fires, however the department hopes to eventually include meteorological and vegetation data to support an early warning system for veld fires.

“The launch of ZACube-2 represents a significant milestone in the nation’s ambition to becoming a key player in the innovative utilisation of space science and technology in responding to government priority areas,” science and technology minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said.

While ZACube-2 cost R16.5m,  the department said it comes with a range of benefits. 

Previously the government accessed much of its information from satellites operated and owned by other states and private companies. With ZACube-2,  the state can access the data directly, with the possibility of sharing with other states or businesses.

It also forms part of a training programme to develop local skills, while two black- and female-owned companies, Astrofica and Livhone, were involved in the project.

The department said ZACube-2 serves as a precursor for MDASat, a group of nine nanosatellites that will be expected to provide data to the maritime industry.

Students and companies such as Astrofica and Livhone will also be involved in these projects.

ZACube-2, which is SA’s second nanosatellite after TshepisoSat, was launched with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from Siberia, Russia at 4.07am local time.