The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will invest R27 million over the next three years in the country's Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Satellite programme.  The Director-General of the Department, Dr Phil Mjwara, made this announcement during the ZACube-2 plenary at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) this morning.


Held under the theme, "CPUT's ZACube-2 leading South Africa's Fourth Industrial Revolution into space", the plenary followed the recent launch of the ZACube-2 nanosatellite, considered the most advanced in the African continent to date.  Weighing just 4 kilograms, ZACube-2 carries an automatic identification system (AIS) payload for monitoring the movement of ships along the South African coastline.  It will also help to monitor veld fires, providing near real-time information to ensure faster response times by disaster management teams.


CPUT's Prof. Robert van Zyl, who heads the institution's satellite build programme, says that while ZACube-2 is still in the process of being commissioned, it has already shown that the majority of its functions are operating as planned.  He said the final phase of commissioning will be the stabilisation of the satellite, after which imaging will commence.


The satellite is operated from the CPUT Ground Station, with back-up support provided through the Spaceteq Ground Station at Houwteq.  The DST has already invested R16,5 million in CPUT for its nanosatellite programme, which was established in 2009 with the DST's support.


ZACube-2 is a demonstrator for the technology that will ultimately be used in a constellation of nine nanosatellites that will be developed to facilitate South African maritime domain awareness.  The MDASat constellation will provide cutting-edge data exchange systems for the maritime industry in support of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy), as well as veld fire detection applications for South Africa and the region.


Dr Mjwara told this morning's gathering that the Department is investing in the CPUT satellite build programme as it responds to the country's national priorities.  "The country has a vast coastline, and ZACube-2 is monitoring ship activity in support of Operation Phakisa," he said.


Operation Phakisa is a presidential priority initiative under which government, civil society, the private sector, academia and other stakeholders plan and work together in unlocking the economic potential of South Africa's oceans.


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an entity of the DST, has developed the Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (OCIMS) to support Operation Phakisa.  Within OCIMS, which is already operational, a number of decision support tools have been developed for monitoring coastal flood hazards, harmful algal blooms and other phenomena relevant to maritime domain awareness.


South Africa – until the launch of ZACube-2 – had no sovereign space-based AIS capability.  The first AIS data from ZACube-2, which has been successfully fed into OCIMS and validated by the Phakisa compliance team, demonstrates this capability.  This data was made public today for the first time.










AIS data is critical for the security of South Africa's exclusive economic zone, enabling the monitoring of shipping behaviour and detection of activities like illegal fishing in the country's marine protected areas.  ZACube-2 has made huge strides towards giving South Africa sovereign data security, as we currently have to procure such data from international suppliers.


The DST has now contracted CPUT to develop a further three satellites towards the complete MDASat constellation.  The three new satellites will be ready for launch in 2020. 


Issued by the Department of Science and Technology and CPUT


For more information, contact Zama Mthethwa (DST) at 082 808 3956 or Ian van Zyl (CPUT) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.