• Out of this world

    Out of this world

    In South Africa, a picosatellite – built by pupils from 16 high schools across the Western Cape province – is preparing for launch.

    The picosatellite, to be launched from the US, is roughly the size of a slice of bread and weighs less than 500g. It was developed as a part of the US-based ThinSat programme, which is designed to encourage students to take part in STEM and foundational space subjects.

    As reported by Space in Africa, ThinSat participants (who range from middle school to university level) are trained to ‘develop satellite hardware, test sensor components with low- and high-altitude balloon flights, analyse data, and launch an actual payload into space’.

    The South African picosatellite is one of a constellation of 55 that will be launched into extreme low-Earth orbit (an altitude of about 250 km) to collect data that will be shared with collaborating US-based schools.

    Sadly, the little satellite’s mission is not destined to be a long one… Being at a lower altitude, it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere after 10 days, at which point it will burn up completely.

    16 April 2019
    Image: Karl Schoemaker