South Africa’s nSight1 nanosatellite makes history 300km above the Earth

nsight1 satellite csir south africa

South Africa’s first privately-owned nanosatellite dubbed the nSight1 has been successfully launched into orbit from the International Space Station (ISS).

The nSight1 began its journey to the space station on 18 April 2017 from Florida, aboard a Cygnus cargo spacecraft powered by an Atlus-5 rocket. It joined 28 other nanosatellites from 23 countries on its journey.

South Africa’s government news agency suggests that the satellite weighs in at just 2.5kg, and is the first privately-owned nanosatellite launched by the country.

“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,” adds Mmboneni Muofhe, the DST’s deputy director general of tech innovation.

“More than 70% of the satellite is made up of satellite components supplied by enterprises in the South African space industry.”

South Africa’s nSight1 nanosatellite will be exploring the Earth’s lower thermosphere

The nSight1 isn’t just orbiting the planet for funsies though. The satellite has a distinct mission outline.

“nSight1 is part of the European Commission’s QB50 project, which is aimed at designing and deploying a network of satellites to study the largely unexplored lower thermosphere,” the SA government news agency explains.

The partnership was announced late last year.

The thermosphere is the zone of Earth’s atmosphere in which the International Space Station orbits, between 300 and 450km above the planet’s surface.

The satellite is also carrying research apparatus from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the SCS Gecko Imager which is “an ultra-compact imager that provides RGB imaging at high frame rates”.

On a note closer to home, the satellite will be controlled from the ground by a control station at Houwteq, Grabouw in the Western Cape.

Feature image: Aerospace Industry Support Initiative/CSIR/DTI

Andy Walker, former editor


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