Elon Musk’s Space X will be launching the first of 7 South African-made microsatellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida at the end of the year.
The EOS SAT-1 satellite was only recently completed and will leave Stellenbosch, South Africa for the US in the coming weeks. When completed, all 7 satellites will form a constellation designed to provide independent, high-quality data for agricultural purposes. The satellite constellation will cover over 10 million square kilometres per day, move in a sun-synchronous orbit and provide “100% coverage of the farmlands and forests in top countries”, amongst other things. They are said to be the world’s first agri-focused satellites.
Each satellite is fitted with DragonEye electro-optical imagers which generate multispectral imagery covering harvest monitoring, soil moisture, biomass and agriculture yield production. The imagery data will be received and processed at 4 ground stations around the globe to provide the finest output, and then analysed before it is sent to its end-users.
Developed by EOS Data Analytics and manufactured by South Africa’s Dragonfly Aerospace, the satellites are meant to empower sustainable practices in agriculture worldwide.
EOS Data Analytics hopes to use the EOS SAT technology to achieve the following objectives, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
• Reducing carbon emissions in agriculture.
• Eliminating herbicide and fertiliser overuse.
• Enabling food producers to withstand climate impact.
• Decreasing water usage.
• Reducing food waste.
• Reducing energy consumption.
• Mitigating the upcoming food crisis.
Speaking on their involvement in the project, co-founder and CEO of Dragonfly Aerospace Bryan Dean shared, “This has been an important project for our whole team and has allowed us to demonstrate our capabilities, not just in producing high-performance electro-optical imagers, but in designing and manufacturing a full imaging satellite system. It’s an amazing feeling to see EOS SAT-1 leave our premises and take the next step in its journey to delivering crucial data that will have important environmental benefits for our planet. We look forward to supporting EOSDA with its mission to launch the next six satellites by 2025.”
The launch of the next 3 EOS SAT satellites is slated to occur in 2023, while the final 3 are slated to be launched between 2024-2025. The constellation will then have full operations capability.
EOS Data Analytics was founded in 2015 by Dr Max Polyakov, a Ukrainian entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. The California-based company provides global data analytics solutions. Polyakov acquired Dragonfly Aerospace in 2021, just 2 years after the South African company was founded.
South Africa was the first African country to launch a satellite called SunSat-1 in 1999. In total, the country has launched 8 satellites, the latest being 3 nano satellites which were also launched on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral in January. Only Egypt beats South Africa’s record with 9 launched satellites. The two countries are at the forefront of the continent’s space sector.