Nano-sat’s accidental snap of SA

2014-01-24 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Tshepiso Sat, South Africa’s first nano-satellite, has taken a picture of its homeland — by accident.

The tiny satellite, weighing just 1,2 kg, was launched from Russia in November and is in an orbit 600 km above the Earth.

Professor Robert van Zyl of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, where the satellite was built at the France-South Africa Technology Institute, said yesterday: “Tshepiso was not built for Earth observation. Its camera is there so we can see if the antenna is correctly deployed. We can’t control the camera.”

So he said they were surprised to see the perfect snap of South Africa, as well as one of the Sun.

The 10-metre antenna will be deployed over the course of two weeks and forms the heart of the satellite’s experiments, sending out radio signals that will help to investigate the ionosphere.

The signals will be analysed by a high-frequency antenna at the SA National Space Agency’s space science unit at Hermanus.

This antenna is able to determine precisely the direction from which Tshepiso’s signals are coming.

The signal bends slightly as a result of the electrical charge in the ionosphere. Studying this discrepancy will allow researchers to determine a lot about the composition and thickness of the ionosphere, which is important for high-frequency communications.

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