The postgraduate research capacity of the Carl and Emily Fuchs Institute for Microelectronics (CEFIM) in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology received a boost in July 2021 with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Motseni-Hi-TechSpace (MHTS).
The agreement with MHTS relates to enrolling, training and supervising South African postgraduate students (MSc and PhD) in several fields. These fields include radio frequency (RF) and microwaves, global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers and microwave radiometers. It also includes microwave and radio occultation (RO) antennas and beamforming, automatic identification systems and related RF systems, digital signal processing and FPGA/VHDL data processing. MHTS will support this programme financially for five years from 2022, with an emphasis on the development of previously disadvantaged candidates.
Following the receipt of the funding from MHTS, the University of Pretoria (UP) will identify postgraduate research projects related to the MHTS’ GNSS RO receiver project.
This project of MHTS represents a revolution in atmospheric sounding from space, with precise, accurate and all-weather global observations/global profiles. The instrument has low operational costs, involves all-weather monitoring, is insensitive to clouds, and has global coverage, high precision and absolute calibration. It is being developed for the monitoring of atmospheric parameters and weather prediction, including space weather monitoring. The GNSS receiver can be launched into space onboard a low earth orbiting (LEO) satellite. Such observations provide accurate and valuable information on tropospheric moisture and temperature, even over oceans, and aid in forecasting tropical cyclone formation and tracking. The project was launched on 1 April 2021 and is currently in its preliminary phase.
RO receiver is one of the world’s most accurate, precise and stable atmospheric thermometer in space since RO has the advantage of dense coverage of the Southern Hemisphere (oceans, deserts and mountains). The data derived from the proposed system will be helpful in weather prediction models, as well as severe weather forecasting, including typhoons, hailstorms and hurricanes. It is also beneficial for related research in the fields of meteorology, the ionosphere and climatology.
RO data can assist space weather scientists at the South African National Space Agency to monitor space weather and obtain up-to-date ionospheric information. The RO data will compensate for ground-based measurement systems. It will also help the South African Weather Service (SAWS) improve its weather forecasting, prediction, and atmospheric research. From the RO data, other applications such as forecasting on seasonal and decadal time scales can derive benefit from using that data. Communities such as those in the maritime, navy, aviation and agriculture sectors are secondary benefactors.
MHTS’s funding will take the form of a research support grant. This will primarily involve a student bursary and provide prototyping, minor equipment and upgrades (if necessary), provision for the candidate to attend an international conference to present their work, and a small contribution to shared laboratory expenses, including software licensing and laboratory maintenance.
With its expertise and experience, MHTS commits to training young South African engineers, scientists and data analysts in the fields of RF and microwaves, antennas, software-defined radio (SDR) and FPGA/VHDL signal processing/image processing. In collaboration with SAWS, it also trains students in meteorology, data analytics, and climate and atmospheric sciences. This enables a pipeline of skilled engineers and scientists to feed the industry.
The MHTS-supported programme will increase the critical mass with payload development skills. These engineers will have intimate knowledge of GNSS receivers, but more generally, will have mastered a wide range of specialised RF engineering and scientific skills. It envisages the enrolment of two to four MEng or PhD students. At the end of the programme, MHTS intends to employ those students trained in the value chain within the company to ensure continuity and continuous improvement and contribute to economic growth and job creation.
At the signing of the MoA, Matlou Mathapo, CEO of MHTS, said that the partnership is a significant achievement in realising important development programmes between the private sector and higher education institutions in contributing to space democratisation on the African continent.
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Faleti Joshua is an avid lover of space in all its incomprehensible nature. He holds both an LL.B and a B.L degree. Joshua is a lover of music and a lawyer in his free time.
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