Africa's most advanced nanosatellite, developed by South Africa, was successfully launched on Thursday, the South African Department of Science and Technology said.
"Today marks another historic milestone for South Africa with the successful launch into space of the continent's most advanced nanosatellite to date, ZACube-2, in the early hours of this morning," the department said in a statement.
The ZACube-2 took off at 04:07 a.m. with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from Russia's Vostochny spaceport, the statement said.
The cube-satellite, which left the earth together with small satellites from the United States, Japan, Spain and Germany, is orbited as secondary payload in a launch mission designed for real-time monitoring of natural and manmade disasters and other emergencies, according to the statement.
South African Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane congratulated the team behind this historic moment, saying the launch of ZACube-2 represents a significant milestone in the nation's ambition to become a key player in the innovative utilization of space science and technology in responding to government priority areas.
"I am particularly excited that the satellite was developed by some of our youngest and brightest minds under a program representing our diversity, in particular black students and young women," she said.
The ZACube-2 will provide cutting-edge remote sensing and communication services to South Africa and the region with a mission to monitor the movement of ships along the South African coastline with its automatic identification system (AIS) payload.
The satellite is a technology demonstrator for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) that will provide critical information for South Africa's oceans economy, the statement said.
"This satellite will help us monitor our ocean traffic as part of our oceans economy and also monitor veld fires and provide near real-time fire information ensuring a quick response time by disaster management teams," Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Weighing just 4 kg, the ZACube-2 is South Africa's second nanosatellite that has been launched into space and three times the size of its predecessor, TshepisoSat.