The reentry of South Africa’s first commercially developed CubeSat, nSight-1 is expected tomorrow (if predictions are accurate). The satellite was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Atlas V rocket on the OA-7 “John Glenn” resupply mission in April 2017. Deployed on 25 May 2017, the satellite has spent almost 3 years in orbit capturing and downloading over 40 high-quality images.
QB50 was a European Union-funded project to conduct a science experiment in lower thermosphere with the launch of 50CubeSats in low-Earth orbit. The project started in 2014 and SCS took the opportunity to get on board, capitalising on the subsidized launch. The satellite project was put together within 6months with 3months of Assembly, Integration and Testing. Most of the satellite bus was manufactured in South Africa (including VHF/UHF Transceiver, Break-out board, ADCS Module, Gecko Imager and Gravity Wave Experiment) and up to 15 of the ADCS module developed in South Africa was supplied to other QB50 teams.
The 2U Cubesat was deployed to a low 400km orbit from the International Space Station, alongside other 27 ISS-bound QB50 Cubesats into orbit, deployed by NanoRacks in several batches over a period spanning 16 to 25 May 2017. The ground station was built at Stellenbosch University.
The SCS Space nSight1 was a joint investment funded by the SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions who supplied the ground segment software. The Cubesat was designed, integrated and tested by engineers from the Somerset-based Space Advisory Company and assembled in the cleanroom of NewSpace Systems, both part of the SCS Aerospace Group.
A key part of the mission of the satellite was to demonstrate the newly developed SCS Gecko multispectral imager, as well as the Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique developed and patented by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Perhaps, the third success story onboard the Cubesat for the South African space industry is the Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS) designed and manufactured by CubeSpace, a spin-off of the University of Stellenbosch.
At a farewell event organised on Friday 24 April over Zoom with representatives from leading space companies and other South African government institution present, Lourens Visagie, the Mission Engineer for nSight-1 walked participants through the development process of the project, including the challenges faced and how they were tackled.
“This is what happens when we all work together; when industry and Universities come together to achieve a mission. It shows how important collaboration is and how it can help further develop the local industry”, said Prof. Sias Mostert, Chairman of SCS Group.
Other companies and institutions that participated in the success of nSight-1 include SpaceTeQ, NewSpace Systems, PinkMatter, CubeSpace, Stellenbosch University, von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and Space Advisory Company.
When asked about follow-up missions for nSight, Prof. Mostert said: “nSight-2 is under development, the imager and sensors needed are already developed, however, there is a need for further sponsorship”. There is an ongoing plan by SCS Space to further develop nSight-2 and nSight-3, however, this is subject to availability of funding as the company is looking at raising up to USD 600,000 for both projects.