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International space project puts South Africa on the satellite industry map

The South African satellite industry is taking yet another step forward as a player in the international arena with the launch of two South African built nanosatellites from Cape Canaveral in Florida within the next few days.   Two nanosatellites, ‘nSight1’ designed and manufactured by Cape Town-based SCS Space, a member of the SCS Aerospace Group and ‘ZA-Aerosat’ designed and manufactured by CubeSpace of the Stellenbosch University, are to be launched  as part of a batch totaling 28  nanosatellites from 23 different countries. The current information provided by ULA, the launch service provider, is that the Atlas V & Cygnus OA-7 launch is set for 18 April 2017 at 17:11 South African time (11:11am EDT) following a number of rescheduled events due to ground equipment readiness. Their initial destination is the International Space Station (ISS), where they will be unloaded by the ISS crew and transferred to deployers with the help of robotic arms. The satellites will eventually be deployed into low-earth orbit over a period of 30 to 60 days as the ISS orbits the Earth.

The SCS Space nSight1 satellite project is a joint investment by SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions who supplied the ground segment software. The satellite was designed, integrated and tested by engineers from the Space Advisory Company and assembled in the clean room of NewSpace Systems, both part of the SCS Aerospace Group. A key part of the mission of the satellite is to allow for the testing of the newly developed SCS Gecko Imager  as well as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique.

The satellites are part of the QB50 project funded by the European Union and managed by the von Karman Institute to conduct research in the lower thermosphere between 200km to 380km altitude. The data collected from this experiment over a period of 18 months will be used to complement current atmospheric models especially applicable to reentry trajectories of spacecraft.  All the nanosatellites will eventually burn up at the end of their operational lifetimes.

“We are proud to be a part of an international space project of this magnitude. It affords us the opportunity to test the next generation space camera technology which was uniquely developed by SCS Space and partners within industry development initiatives of the South African Department of Trade and Industry,” says Hendrik Burger, CEO for SCS Space, the primary contractor for the nSight1 nanosatellite.

“We are also looking forward to the next stage of this project which encompasses operational aspects such as mission control and processing the data received from our satellite. This will be done through our Houwteq Ground Station near Grabouw in the Western Cape,” says Burger.

SCS Space is a subsidiary of the SCS Aerospace Group, Africa’s largest privately owned satellite concern. Other participants in the project are Pinkmatter Solutions, Space Advisory Company, NewSpace Systems, Stellenbosch University, CubeSpace, Simera Technology Group, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Amateur Radio Society.

From left: Dr Sias Mostert, Chairman of the SCS Aerospace Group, Hendrik Burger, CEO of SCS Space, Chris Böhme and Sonja Goosen both from Pinkmatter Solutions who co-invested in the project and supplies ground segment software for the satellite

A satellite in the process of being deployed from the International Space Station. The 28 satellites which forms part of the European Union’s QB50 project will all be deployed in this manner over a period of 30 to 60 days while the ISS orbits Earth. Image: NASA

For more information, please contact:

Lecia Chidrawi

Group Marketing Manager for the SCS Aerospace Group of companies

T: +27 21 300 0060

F: +27 21 300 0064

E:  |

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South African satellite to take part in international space project

7 November 2016:

A nanosatellite designed and built in South Africa will be launched early next year from the International Space Station as part of a European Commission research project.

Managed by SCS Aerospace Group, South Africa’s biggest private satellite concern it will be launched from the space station during the first quarter of next year together with 40 satellites from other countries as part of the European Commission’s QB50 project. These satellites are to conduct atmospheric research in the lower thermosphere between 200km to 380km altitude. The data collected from this experiment over a period of 18 months will be used to complement current atmospheric models used by operators in the space industry.

“We are proud not only to be part of the QB50 project, but especially of the fact that it presents the opportunity to showcase South Africa’s ability in the space industry. Almost all the systems and components on this satellite were manufactured and assembled within six months with South African partners,” says Dr. Sias Mostert, Chairman of the SCS Aerospace Group.

“Although one of our subsidiary companies SCS Space is the prime contractor for the satellite, it offers a platform for showcasing the space technology abilities of all the other SA stakeholders who made this project possible. Participants in the project are the Space Advisory Company, Stellenbosch University, CubeSpace, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Pinkmatter Solutions, the Amateur Radio Society and NewSpace Systems,” says Dr. Mostert.

Apart from conducting the European Commission’s lower thermosphere experiments the nanosatellite called nSight1 and weighing some 2.5 kg will during its 6 to 18 months’ flight also test the company’s newly developed SCS Gecko Imager as well as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented ‘Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique’.

“The mission is a joint investment by SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions and forms part of a line of satellites to establish space heritage for a new generation of high performance remote sensing cameras. The camera technology being tested on the nSight1 nanosatellite was developed with initial support from the South African Department of Trade and Industry’s AISI program,” says Dr. Mostert.

The satellite was designed, integrated and tested by engineers from the Space Advisory Company (SAC), another member of SCS Aerospace Group. SAC is a satellite systems engineering company with thousands of man-hour practical satellite engineering experience in the global satellite market. Design and engineering were contributed to nSight1 in the focus areas of structural, thermal, optical and digital engineering, power systems, communication systems, software, attitude control systems and system engineering.

The satellite was assembled in the clean room of NewSpace Systems, a South African spacecraft component manufacturer. NewSpace Systems employs only European Space Agency (ESA) certified technicians in their ISO 7 class clean room, a unique facility on the African continent.

“As a producer of new generation satellite ground segment software, Pinkmatter primarily serves the international satellite market. As a South African company, we are stronger by working together to provide more value to continue our success story in the international market. We are proud to have co-funded the nSignt1 mission, the first private South African satellite and thank all the engineers for the many days and nights of excellent work,” says Chris Böhme, the CEO of Pinkmatter Solutions


The core team that built SCS Aerospace Group’s nSight1 nanosatellite in a record time of 6 months are at the front from left to right: Dr. Louis Muller, Dr. Francois Malan, Kannas Wiid, Rikus Cronje, Hendrik Burger; in the middle David Brill; and at the back Heinrich Fuchs, Premie Pillay, Philip Bellsted, Dr Lourens Visagie, Kevin Gema and Marcello Bartolini.


nSight1 the South African satellite ready for shipment and its ultimate launch from the International Space Station early next year. From left are Dr Sias Mostert, Chairman of the SCS Aerospace Group, the company that drives the project, Hendrik Burger, CEO of SCS Space, Chris Böhme and Sonja Goosen both form Pinkmatter Solutions (


The nSight1, a 2.5 kg nanosatellite produced within 6 months by SCS Space and Space Advisory Company, members of the SCS Aerospace Group, South Africa’s largest private space company. The satellite is due for a launch as one of 40 other satellites from the International Space Station early next year as part of the European Space Agency’s QB50 project to study the earth’s upper atmosphere. During its flight it will also test the company’s newly developed SCS Gecko Imager as well as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented ‘Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique’.

For more information contact:

Lecia Chidrawi
SCS Aerospace Group: Marketing Manager

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Aerospace support programme success leads to increased funding for supplier development

The Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) – managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) – has renewed its focus on its Supplier Development Programme (SDP), consequently allocating more resources to the programme, in addition to establishing and operating a pilot incentive scheme.

The SDP, as one of five programmes developed by the AISI, aims to provide mechanisms that enable small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) to improve their competitiveness and productivity, thereby also increasing their ability to access the global supply chains.

AISI project manager Dr Prinal Naidoo says this renewed focus is because of the SDPís overall success in aiding SMMEs in the aerospace manufacturing sector, which, in turn, led to the dti’s increasing its investment in the SDP.

He explains that the five programmes are allocated a percentage of the AISI investment fund, depending on the needs of the industry, the success of the programme and the mandate from the dti. Based on these criteria, the AISI has increased the SDPís  share from 24% in the 2014/15 financial year to 49% in the 2015/16 financial year.

Naidoo notes that ‘the decision to increase the support from the dti will make a significant impact on industry, as more funding for supplier development results in more aerospace manufacturing SMMEs being developed’. He suggests that this will  eventually enable the SMMEs to supply the international market and, hopefully, attain credibility as leading manufacturers and suppliers of aerospace components.

The SDP has two pillars – supplier development enablers, which include projects relating to the implementation of quality management systems and standards, as well as preparation for international accreditation – and technology transfer.

The SDP assists SMMEs in establishing quality management systems by increasing their knowledge of and compliance with aerospace standards, and in achieving international accreditation, Naidoo adds.

The SDP has been instrumental in increasing SMMEsí adoption of aerospace standard AS/EN 9100 – or essentially the aerospace equivalent of ISO 9001 – which outlines the requirements for quality assurance in design, development, production, installation and servicing.

Through these enablers, SMMEs can improve their efficiencies, reduce waste and costs while increasing their attractiveness as aerospace manufacturers.

He notes that the projects supported under supplier development enablers are not continuous. ‘Project support  changes each year, depending on industry need. If a company receives support for AS/EN 9100 and is certified for a specific period, the company might not need support for this in the following year; this also applies to other areas within the SDP.’ Naidoo notes that this demonstrated that the AISI and its programmes adapt to the changing needs of the local aerospace industry.

The number of SMMEs supported is project dependent – certain projects have a large number of SMMEs benefiting, while others have fewer SMMEs benefiting, he points out.

Naidoo states that supplying the global aerospace original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Boeing and Airbus, requires significant intervention for local SMMEs. The AISI provides support for these interventions to enable SMMEs to enter the international supply chain via local integrators.

He cites the example of machining manufacturer Daliff Precision Engineering. ‘Through AISI interventions, Daliff can now  supply components to Airbus and develop as an aerospace manufacturing SMME.’

He says similar interventions are under way at other SMMEs: ‘The AISI is focusing on developing these manufacturing SMMEs through focused supplier development interventions and working closely with OEMs in the industry.’

The Pilot Scheme
Naidoo states that the Aerospace Supplier Development Incentive Scheme focuses on broadening industry participation by enabling SMMEs to increase their involvement in the aerospace manufacturing industry.

‘This scheme is intended to support the development of a subtier SMME manufacturing base through higher tier systems integrators and manufacturers in the aerospace industry, which supply components to international OEMs,’ he explains.

The scheme is meant to use current local integrators – or manufacturers that have already established international market relationships and supply chains – to help develop SMME manufacturers, where the integrator acts as a facilitator between the OEM and SMME.

Naidoo explains that the incentive payments, which are made to an OEM, will be based on a percentage of the increase in contractual value that results from contracts placed by an integrator to an SMME in consecutive years starting in the 2015/16 financial year.

‘The incentive support will continue  for  three consecutive years, after which the SMME must be able to absorb the necessary quality processes and develop an independent capability,’ he states.

Further, an expression of interest was advertised to identify two aerospace OEMs -Denel Aerostructures and Aerosud Aviation – which have since initiated eight projects at seven aerospace manufacturing SMMEs.

Impact on Industry 
Naidoo says the AISI neither provides capital expenditure (capex), as there are other mechanisms in the dti that support capex, nor supports research and development projects, as its focus is on the industrialisation and/or commercialisation of technologies.

SMMEs have also benefited from the Industry Development and Technology Support Programme by receiving support to industrialise technologies relevant to aeronautics, defence and space. As a result, new technologies are being developed that feeds into national and international markets.

Most Recent Project
Naidoo notes that the AISI was recently involved in a project pertaining to the design and manufacturing of aerospace fuel tank systems: ‘This project proposed the establishment of a specialised capability for the loads analysis of aerospace fuel tank structures, thereby providing critical design information for the local industry.’

The project was meant to obtain a competitive advantage in the international market by leveraging locally developed technology, thus attracting foreign investment and increasing its foothold in the global supply chain. He says that, by employing high value-added manufacturing, it would be possible to ensure the sustained growth of human resources and skills development.

Further, the type of work required for this project  will drive innovation and, hopefully, act as a technology incubator, Naidoo states.

He adds that this project had a unique collaboration model that entailed collaboration among industry, the CSIR and academia, yet each organisation had specific objectives that contributed to the success of the project.

Denel Aerostructures provided the design and manufacturing capability, the CSIR provided software development capability and the University of Pretoria the test and evaluation capability. Project duration was 18 months and was successfully completed with the  specialised capability being effectively developed and tested.

Naidoo notes that the global economic slowdown has naturally affected many high- technology industries, including the aerospace industry. This has resulted in a decreased effort to develop technologies and supplier bases, owing to a lack of funding availability in the private and public sectors.

He emphasises that this restricted environment is what makes initiatives like the AISI more relevant as an industry support mechanism.

‘The AISI provides the necessary support to develop technologies and improve the aerospace supplier base. It enables aerospace OEMs and SMMEs to continue with product and supplier development.’

Naidoo concludes that the AISI is integral to continued development in the South African aerospace manufacturing industry and the growth of the economy.


Fuel Sloshing Demonstration at the Univeristy of Pretoria

Fuel Tank Assembly at Denel Aerostructures

Fuel Tank Assembly at Denel Aerostructures

Fuel Tank Sloshing Simulation Done by the CSIR

Fuel Tank Sloshing Simulation Done by the CSIR

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Advanced manufacturing boosts global competitiveness of aeronautics and defence sectors

The Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) is fulfilling its mandate to assist in improving the global competitiveness of the local aeronautics, space and defence sectors. Advanced manufacturing, specifically, holds good potential for AISI industry partner Denel Aerostructures as a game changer to promote the aerospace industry.

The AISI is an initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and is hosted and managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Marié Botha, AISI Manager, says, “The AISI takes its strategic direction from government’s objectives with a specific emphasis on industrialisation of technology. South African industry is encouraged to advance niche capabilities and technologies through industrialisation. Our projects and contribution to the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries cover a broad spectrum – from process design of continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastic joining methods to process design of titanium fluid-cell forming, and the design and testing of high strength aerospace materials.”

Two projects are of particular interest in the partnership with Denel Aerostructures. They are:

Ultra high cycle fatigue (UHCF) design and testing of high strength aerospace materials

Ultra-sonic fatigue research has been primarily undertaken in France, the United States of America, Slovakia, Austria and Japan.

Many newly designed systems and high strength materials are required to last for longer operational life cycles at increased frequencies. This requirement will extend the amount of fatigue cycles experienced by the new designs into the high to ultra-high cycle range.

A lack of understanding exists of the effects of UHCF on high strength materials that are subjected to UHCF loading. To this end, Denel Aerostructures is extending existing work to enhance the testing capability of the most widely used modern aerospace materials, and to create a complete and more comprehensive database of modern aerospace grade high-strength materials, which may be used in the future.

Pretesh Daya, Stress Engineer at Denel Aerostructures, explains, “We hope to develop a working fatigue and damage tolerance testing system that can be used to test a variety of high durability materials in the field of Ultra High Cycles. This will be the UHCF testing mechanism in the southern hemisphere.

“Once the system has been fully developed it is likely that it would be put to use in developing new materials that make use of new technologies such as grown/3D printed components. The system would be able to gather the data necessary for the improvement of existing materials as well. For example, one of the hurdles in adopting new materials and processes (such as grown/3D printing) in the aeronautical industry is the availability of reliable (third party) material data in different fields, such as fatigue specification data. This UHCF machine would be one of the means to be used to provide this data.”

Progress so far includes the design and development of a testing system that is capable of testing both aluminium and titanium aerospace grade materials up to and above the giga-cycle region of testing – that is billions of loading cycles.

The work has also resulted in the incorporation of a sensor system capable of monitoring and recording data up to 50 kHz (50 000 cycles) during testing. Stress-life data curves have been developed for both the materials with additional upgrades and materials to be developed and tested in the future.

The successful completion of the system will result in the development of optimised high strength materials, which would ultimately lead to cost saving as well as increased safety since much of the data for these new materials do not exist.

“As is always the case with development, some serendipitous circumstances – probably because necessity brings innovation – resulted in unexpected benefits,” Daya quips, “For example, this testing system also gave rise to the development of stress-life data for a project performed by another department of Denel. The Denel Dynamics project required the use of such a system to identify and verify the fatigue capability of a manufactured component. Our work has therefore already, unintentionally, resulted in the successful development of manufactured components.” The completion of the current project may result

in future development in the near future.

UHCF experimental setup
UHCF experimental setup


UHCF testing equipment
UHCF testing equipment


Feasibility of Natural Fibres in Aerospace Structures

South Africa’s local composite market has yet to make a significant impact in the global market. However, aircraft interiors are one area where natural fibres may be employed in composites as they offer a good strength-to-weight ratio. This, together with the growing popularity of green technologies and the need to reduce manufacturing costs, contributes to natural fibres being seen as a substitute for synthetic glass fibres.

With the support of the AISI, Denel Aerostructures is taking natural fibres from a pilot study into a production environment. The feasibility of using natural fibre composites in aerospace interiors is assessed and, where possible, the emphasis is on locally manufactured natural fibres.

Alcino Cardoso, Chief Engineer at Denel Aerostructures, says, “The aerospace market is still one of the most promising markets when it comes to composites. Due to fluctuations in oil prices and the risk of future shortages, aerospace manufacturers are turning to alternative materials to build lighter aircraft that are reliable and environmentally friendly.”

Natural fibres are already successfully used in the automotive and other commercial applications. The aerospace industry has taken an interest in natural fibres, but to be accepted, the fibres must meet stringent safety, quality and certification requirements. Flax is the most researched natural fibre, and, Cardoso continues, “shows the greatest promise to be accepted as a structural fibre for aerospace structures”.

Part of the feasibility study aims to identify its reliability and repeatability (i.e. as a natural fibre, are its strength properties the same from harvest to harvest); how its strength properties behave under hot/wet environments; and what its flame, smoke, toxicity and heat release properties are.

Cardoso explains, “Flax fibres are currently included in various aerospace development programmes worldwide and show superior specific substance and strength to the synthetic glass fibre. Also of special interest is its excellent dampening and acoustic properties. Passenger safety regulations are extremely strict. Flax fibres have inherent safety advantages that make them suitable for aircraft interiors, such as doors for baggage components, interior liners, and cabin floors. However, due to the stringent aircraft testing requirements, they will probably only find their way into aircraft structures by 2020.”

Currently, Denel Aerostructures, with the support of the AISI, is characterising the material properties of an epoxy resin/flax fibre composite laminate with the purpose of using this material in the interior liners of the new regional aircraft developed under the SARA programme. Various test coupons are currently being tested and an interior liner will be manufactured this year from locally developed flax fibre fabrics.

Cardoso says they have been able to develop globally comparable natural flax fibre fabrics in about a third of the expected timeframe. “A further spin-off has been indications from the local market to collaborate on developing carbon fibre fabrics, a synthetic fibre widely used on aerospace structures.

“From a local perspective, we can activate the natural fibres value chain, break into the lucrative global composites market and create much-needed jobs,” he concludes.

The capability developed within this project is linked to the use of natural fibres in the development of the South African Regional Aircraft (SARA), by Denel Aerostructures.

Master pattern and tool design for the SARA interior lining
Master pattern and tool design for the SARA interior lining



Typical SARA interior lining manufactured from Natural Fibres
Typical SARA interior lining manufactured from Natural Fibres

In both cases, the support of the AISI has made it possible for Denel Aerostructures to make gains in terms of advanced manufacturing. Botha says, “This is in line with our vision and mission, which is to make the South African aerospace industry globally competitive.”