Starlink South Africa Elon Musk

Starlink-18 launch on 4 February 2021 Image via Flickr/SpaceX

WATCH LIVE: SA nanosatellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX Transporter-3

The first nanosatellite constellation developed on the continent will be launched into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Livestreaming is expected to start after 17:00.

Starlink South Africa Elon Musk

Starlink-18 launch on 4 February 2021 Image via Flickr/SpaceX

Three locally produced nanosatellites will be launched into space on Thursday, 13 January. It is a first for the country’s space industry, as well as the continent, as it is the first launch of such a constellation developed entirely on the African continent.


The South African nanosatellites will be launched aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from Cape Canaveral in the United States, as a “rideshare payload” as part of the Elon Musk-owned company’s Transporter-3 mission.

The satellites will be deployed in low Earth orbit at an altitude of 525 kilometres, said the Department of Science and Innovation.

The Maritime Domain Awareness Satellite constellation (MDASat-1) was developed at the Cape University of Technology (CPUT) through the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI).

Science Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said his department has invested R27 million in the project over three years.

“As part of this programme, students are taught engineering principles using CubeSats as training tools.

“CubeSats are built using the same engineering principles as any other satellite, hence highly specialised and advanced skills are acquired through this programme,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande said the launch of the first three MDASat constellation satellites cements South Africa’s position as a continental leader in small satellite development and will “help the country to capture a valuable share of a niche market in the fast-growing global satellite value chain.”

The full MDASat constellation will consist of nine cube satellites that will detect, identify and monitor vessels in near real-time, which will support the country’s maritime domain awareness, said the government.

The launch is expected to take place at 17:25 South African time; however, this may change depending on the weather conditions.

SpaceX will livestream the launch at The webcast is expected to start 10 to 15 minutes before lift-off.