UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme (IPP) Scholarships

UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme (IPP) Scholarships for Doctoral studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland


The IPP is a programme run by the UK Space Agency that focuses strongly on using the UK space sector’s research and innovation strengths to deliver a sustainable economic or societal benefit to emerging and developing economies around the world. The IPP seeks to use space solutions to make a positive and practical impact on the lives of those living in emerging and developing economies through partnerships with end users in the target countries to increase their capacity to respond to specific challenges. “FireSat” is a joint project funded under the IPP. The project lead is Clyde Space, and the academic partnering institutions are Strathclyde University (Glasgow), Cape Peninsula University (Cape Town), Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), and the Technical University of Kenya (TUK).

Under the FireSat IPP Project, scholarship are available to eligible candidates for full-time studies at the University of Strathclyde in the field of aerospace engineering.


Candidates must:

  • have a Master’s degree in Engineering, preferably in the disciplines of Electrical, Mechanical, Mechatronics or Aerospace engineering
  • be available for full-time studies in Glasgow, Scotland, for the full duration of the scholarship of 3 years
  • be available to commence studies no later than January 2019


The call for applications and application form are linked below:

FireSat Doctoral Scholarships Call November 2018

FireSat Doctoral Scholarships Application Form





Countdown begins for ZACube-2 launch

Four years after making history with the launch of Africa’s first nano-satellite into space, CPUT is preparing to reach even greater heights with the launch of its second CubeSat – ZACube-2.

ZACube-2 will be the most advanced South African CubeSat to date and is expected to launch in May or June from a launch site in India.

It was developed by the Satellite Programme of the CPUT French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), which is based at the Bellville campus.

“ZACube-2 is a triple unit CubeSat so it is three times the size of its predecessor, which was called TshepisoSat,” says F’SATI director, Prof Robert van Zyl.

“It is currently being tested and qualified for space, which means it is being subjected to the extreme conditions it will be exposed to in the space environment.”

The main payload on the satellite is an AIS (automatic identification system) receiver with which navigational data will be received from ships along our coast.  This data, which includes the ships’ GPS coordinates, registration information, speed and direction of travel, will assist the authorities to track ship traffic in our exclusive economic zone, and improve the safety of ships.

ZACube-2 will also carry an advanced camera, which will detect forest and velds fires.

ZACube-2 serves as a precursor mission for two future satellite constellations – the one for Maritime Domain Awareness in support of Operation Phakisa and the other a FireSat constellation to track fire on the African continent,” says Van Zyl.

The ZACube-2 mission is an initiative funded by the Department of Science and Technology, the South African National Space Agency, the National Research Foundation and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Our technology partners include the CSIR, Stone Three, Clyde Space, Stellenbosch University and Astrofica.


  • Operation Phakisa is an initiative of the South African government, and is aimed at implementing priority programmes better, faster and more effectively.

Celebrating science

The sun has a diameter of approximately 1 392 684 km, it surface temperature is around 5 550 degrees Celcius and is celebrating its 4.6 billionth birthday.

This is just some of the fun facts scientist shared with high school learners and CPUT students during a public lecture organised by F’SATI as part of the National Science Week 2015 celebration.

The celebrations are an initiative by the Department of Science and Technology that is observed country-wide that involves various stakeholders conducting science-based activities simultaneously in multiple sites per province.

This year’s theme was “The International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies” and at CPUT learners and students had the opportunity to listen to two space experts.

Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell,  Managing Director of the South African Space Agency (SANSA) Space Science, delivered a talk titled “Applications from the near-Earth Space Environment,” while Prof Norman Fitz-Coy delivered a talk titled  “A SmallSat Mission for On-Orbit Characterization of Radiation Effects”.



How nano-satellites are driving Africa’s space programme

A tiny cube, slightly smaller than a loaf of bread, is the new manna to heaven, as the number of nano-satellites being hurled into orbit is increasing substantially.

Nano-satellites are small satellites weighing between 1 kg and 10 kgCubeSats are box-shaped versions of nano-satellites. They are very light compared to the traditional satellites which can weigh anything up to a few tons.

Pretty much in the vein of mobile phone hand-sets, satellites have also become smaller and better. They cost less but have the capability of bigger satellites of the past.

In their short existence nano-satellites have seen a remarkable uptake globally among universities and recent business start-ups. The exciting era of nano-satellites has begun.

Cost effective and nimble

Since 2000, more than 300 CubeSats have been launched, of which American start-up Planet Labs accounts for a third. It is expected that up to 3000 nano- and micro-satellites will be launched over the next 5 years.

While the cost of a big satellite can run into hundreds of millions of dollars, a CubeSat can be built for around a hundred thousand dollars, and launched for much the same, depending on the complexity of the mission.

For this reason, CubeSats were initially used to train students for the aerospace industry. But now these small spacecraft can even be used to track and trace vessels at sea, or aircraft.

Being low cost, multiple nano-satellites can be launched into low Earth orbit. The satellites in these constellations pass over a specific geographic area more frequently than single, big-satellite missions.

This makes it possible for nano-satellites to be used for rapid responses to disasters, or to gather timely information relating to tele-medicine, environmental management and asset tracking. They will soon even reach to other planets.

With so many satellites big and small in orbit there is the possibility (still extremely small) of collision with pieces of used rockets and defunct satellites floating about. But even tiny pieces of space debris are tracked with radar and potential collisions can be predicted and avoided with appropriate technologies.

This has inspired cutting edge research and innovation, for example, to make sure nano-satellites de-orbit (return to the atmosphere and burn out) when they reach the end of their lives.

Combined with evolving national and international regulatory frameworks, future generations will continue to benefit from this resource.

Africa’s first cool cube

On 21 November 2013, South Africa made history by becoming the first African country to launch its own CubeSat TshepisoSAT into space.

TshepisoSAT being loaded into its ‘pod’ before launch.

The satellite was developed by students and staff from the French South African Institute of Technology at CPUT with funding from the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

TshepisoSAT was the first in a series of CubeSats that will study the ionosphere above Africa in collaboration with scientists of the South African National Space Agency, and others on the continent.

The university has also pioneered the International African CubeSat Workshop series, a growing networking forum for colleagues on the continent. The partnership between academia, government and industry together with adopting CubeSats for a hands-on learning experience provide a blueprint for creating similar nodes elsewhere in Africa.

Challenges facing Africa’s space vision

Nano-satellites support the African Union’s science and technology ambitions which it believes could reap massive benefits for the continent.

The African Union Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa – 2024(STISA-2024) has six priorities, at the heart of which is the pursuit of space-based applications supported by an indigenous satellite industry. The priorities include putting an end to hunger, bringing about food security and preventing and controlling diseases.

But establishing a sustainable African space industry faces a number of challenges, notably that of funding. Furthermore, young people are generally not rushing to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Capacity building for the space industry is constrained by the high cost of traditional satellites and supporting infrastructure compared to other technologies.

CubeSats are, however, winning over the youth to the space sector. From being cheaper to build and launched to space, they provide a cost-effective platform for training and research, especially for countries where heavy investment in a space industry has to be weighed against more immediate needs such as health and welfare.

Combining the vibrant ingenuity and creativity of this generation with an equally ingenious and cool space technology can no doubt have a profoundly positive socio-economic impact on Africa.

Democratising space

Africa is steadily moving towards a coherent space programme and nano-satellites should be part of this broader strategy. Pan-African constellations of nano-satellites can be developed in partnerships with existing communities of excellence in science, engineering and mathematics on the continent.

By ensuring that Africa produces its own engineers and scientists, and by playing our part on the global stage, the continent will have taken another step towards the democratisation of space for its people.

By Prof Robert van Zyl, Director of F’SATI

*Article first appeared in The Conversation Africa