ZACube-1 ModelMission

The South African ZACUBE 1 (South Africa CubeSat-1) is a student-developed 1U CubeSat of CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology), Cape Town, South Africa. Its main payload is a high frequency (HF) beacon transmitter that will be used to help characterize the Earth’s ionosphere and to calibrate SANSA’s (South African National Space Agency) auroral radar installation at the SANAE-IV base in Antarctica.

Sensor complement: (HF beacon antenna, Camera)

The satellite’s main payload is a HF (High Frequency) beacon transmitter that will be used for research in the geospace environment. Research and development of the payload and supporting ground station systems is done in collaboration with the Space Science Directorate of SANSA (South African National Space Agency). The main objective of the HF Beacon on ZACUBE-1 is to provide a continuous radio signal to determine the elevation resolving algorithm of the SuperDARN HF Radar antenna at SANAE in Antarctica. The signal will also be used to characterize the beam pattern of this and other HF Radar antennas in the SuperDARN network, and to characterize the ionosphere over the polar regions.)

The HF beacon transmitter operates at a radio frequency of 14.099 MHz and transmits up to 200 mW of RF power. The carrier is ASK modulated with a Morse code message; the data rate is up to 60 bit/s.

ZACube-1 HF AntennaDeployable HF beacon antenna:

To radiate the HF signal efficiently, an antenna aperture of half a wavelength is required, i.e. approximately 10 m at 14 MHz. The simplest concept of a wire antenna was adopted. A flexible cable rope was selected as the element and a small tip mass was attached to the open end. The satellite will be placed in a constant Y-Thomson spin so that the centrifugal force will keep the wire extended.

A specialized deployment mechanism was developed to stow the antenna inside ZACUBE-1 during launch. The cable is coiled onto a bearing mounted reel and during deployment an electric motor and gearbox assembly pulls the wire out of the satellite, uncoiling the reel.

Orbital parameters

Name                 ZACube-1
NORAD                39417
COSPAR designation   2013-066-B
Inclination (degree) 97.765
RAAN                 338.176
Eccentricity         0.0060939
ARGP                 269.254
Orbit per day        14.78382108
Period               1h 37m 24s (97.40 min)
Semi-major axis      7 013 km
Perigee x apogee     592 x 677 km
Drag factor          0.000285920 1/ER
Mean Anomaly         90.167


Beacon 14.099MHz






(Updated November 28, 2013)

1 39417U 13066B   13332.05077051  .00002723  00000-0  38040-3 0   259
2 39417  97.7999  44.4770 0061892 174.2611 185.9361 14.77128257   995


ZAcube-1 1k2 decode:

2013-11-21 09:11:07.750 UTC: [47 Bytes KISS Frame (without CRC)]
ctrl: 12   PID: F0 {I06^}   26 Payload Bytes
from 123456 to 012345: 
   1 > DC 0C 16 7A 61 63 75 62 65 30 31 2E 00 00 13 09 2C 0A DC 2C
  21 > 06 7B 2C 0C 2E DC 

It would be greatly appreciated if any received TLM be sent to (until we can get the decoder app up) the following email address: steenkampL [at]


Expected to be launched with Dnepr from Yasny, Russia in the end of 2013. Active, received and decoded.

Homepage and other references:

Main website: F’SATI
ePortal ZACube-1 information: link.