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Garth Milne ZR1AFH  in Stellenbosch and Hans van de Groenendaal ZS5AKV
in Hillcrest (KwaZulu-Natal) made history on Sunday March 14, 1999 when
they made the first ever voice contact using SUNSAT. The voice quality
was excellent and signals strong even when the satellite approached the

Sunsat , South  Africa’s first satellite was launched on February 23 on
a Delta rocket  from Vandenberg Air Force base.  The vision of starting
a microsatellite originated with Prof Jan du Plessis and Prof Arnold
Schoonwinkel in 1989.

Prof Garth Milne ZR1AFH became project leader. After some 18 months
spent defining the project and seeking industry sponsors for the
programme, , an Advisory Board was established on 27 June 1991 and the
programme officially launched under the banner SUNSAT.  Hans van de
Groenendaal represented the South African Radio League and the Southern
African Amateur Radio Satellite Association (SA AMSAT) on the Advisory

 The name SUNSAT  closely associates the programme with the University
(Stellenbosch University SATellite.  This week SUNSAT also received its
international designation” SUNSAT OSCAR 35. This designation is given to
a satellite that carries one or more transmitters operating on ham
frequencies. "The Amateur Radio services on SUNSAT are our ‘Thank you”
to the Amateur Radio community for the legacy it has left for us all.
We are honoured with SUNSAT’s recognition as an OSCAR.” Prof Garth Milne

Since its launch the satellite has been undergoing extensive testing by
the ground control team situated at the University of Stellenbosch.
Yesterday’s voice contact, testing the transponders on SUNSAT,  is part
of this programme that will  continue for several more weeks before
SUNSAT will be declared fully operational.

 “ It was rewarding for the first test voice contact to be made by the
Radio Amateurs who have been involved from the outset  of the project
10  years ago”, SA AMSAT’s President Hans van de Groenendaal said.

“SUNSAT will play an important part in bringing Amateur Radio into the
classroom as part of the ARISAS programme. ( Amateur Radio in South
African Schools),”  he said.  ARISAS is aimed at using Amateur Radio in
the classroom to expand the teaching of science and technology.

SUNSAT was built by students at the University of Stellenbosch  who did
the detailed design and software development while system level design
was carried out by lecturers

“South Africa has an innovative electronics industry that wishes to
benefit from new opportunities. It also needs competent technically
trained people to establish and operate systems. The SUNSAT programme
is a means of both increasing space segment knowledge in the country,
establishing a satellite training capability and exposing the
industries’ capabilities”’ Prof Garth Milne said. The SUNSAT programme
has delivered over 50 students with Master of Engineering Degrees .

SUNSAT has several payloads with two of the  focus areas on Amateur
Radio and School Science projects. In addition SUNSAT carries two NASA
experiments and an experimental pushbroom imager capable of taking
pictures of the earth.

Two  projects on SUNSAT were built by school groups:

George Campbell Technical High School (Durban) developed and built a
microphone experiment that will monitor sounds generated by vibration,
and  the reaction wheels.
Rhenish Girls High School in Stellenbosch developed an experiment that
will monitor the effect of radiation on small electronic components.

The  high resolution imager providing  50x50 km coverage  will operate
in real time on S band. These images can also be stored in the RAM disk
and portions can be downloaded at lower speeds ( 9600 baud) for
capturing by Radio Amateurs and in Schools.

The ground control station expects SUNSAT’s Amateur Payloads  to be
fully commissioned by mid April when Radio Amateurs world-wide will get
access to the satellite while experiments will  be continued by
Engineers at the University of Stellenbosch.


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