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It’s Important to have Satellites Collecting Data about Africa, for Africa

South African space science had a big day on 13 January 2022 after the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, launched its third satellite mission into space from the Cape Canaveral rocket launch site in Florida in the US. The nanosatellite constellation – consisting of three satellites – is called MDASat (Marine Domain Awareness). A nanosatellite is smaller than standard satellites, weighing between 1kg and 10kg; it’s an affordable, functional option. The mean mass of each of our satellites is 2.1kg. MDASat is designed to collect data that will enhance the security and protection of South African marine resources. The constellation will detect, monitor and identify foreign vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone. This could help track illegal dumping and fishing. It’s an exciting moment not just for the institution and for South Africa, but for the African continent more broadly: this is the first constellation of satellites developed and designed in Africa. Other African countries, among them Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Ghana, have sent satellites into space. But these were not developed and designed on the continent; they involved partnerships with non-African nations or companies.