Innovative Small Satellite Technology and Applications for Africa (SARChI)


Professor NORMAN G. FITZ-COY is the chair holder of the Innovative Small Satellite Technology and Applications for Africa chair in the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.  This chair is hosted in the French South African Institute of Technology (F'SATI) and will leverage on its national and international flagship Postgraduate Programme in Satellite Systems Engineering. It is this programme that led to the launch of the first South African and African CubeSat in November 2013.

Globally, the space industry is undergoing a paradigm shift from large monolithic satellites to applications involving reconfigurable constellations of disaggregated small satellites and a distributed ground support network. This paradigm shift provides an integrated and highly responsive solution to numerous societal needs such as disaster monitoring, asset monitoring, land management and space weather where temporal resolution is of more significance than spatial resolution. However, implementing and operating such distributed systems of satellites (and ground stations) pose daunting technological challenges.

This chair focus on these technological challenges and the development of High Performance Pico-Nano-Micro satellites for addressing the socio-economic needs of Africa.


Specific applications that are feasible with the envisaged distributed network of small satellite constellations can be categorized as space science, remote sensing, and data exfiltration. It includes disaster monitoring, telemedicine, science exploration, environmental and resources management, asset tracking, amateur payload bringing communication resources to isolated communities, space science measurement and experiments.  Space science has been identified by the Department of Science and Technology as one of the five "Great challenges" to be addressed and the focus of the chair on small satellite applications will play an important role to meet the national development needs.

By its very nature, space systems/satellite technology development is a multi-disciplinary activity. Furthermore, the satellite classes of interest (pico-, nano-, micro-) impose constraints on the available size, weight, and power resulting in significant coupling and integration between its different components. The daunting challenges of coordinating such a multi-disciplinary research effort are only matched by the significant innovations which result from the endeavour and the unique Human Capacity Development that it brings to the young researchers.

The chair will contribute to the growth of a small satellite industry by Human Capacity Development, Technology and Applications transfer and by the development in F'SATI at CPUT of a unique integrated design, test and validation approach and facility for mission assurance, as failure is not acceptable for mission critical satellites.

Leveraging on the existing networks developed with Africa, France and Europe through the F'SATI programmes and the network developed in the USA by Professor FITZ-COY, Director of the Advanced Space Technologies Research & Engineering Center (ASTREC), the Postgraduate Satellite Systems Engineering Programme at F’SATI, will lead to a greater recognition/impact for the emerging small satellite industry and their applications in South Africa and Africa.

Through these efforts, F’SATI, and South Africa in general, will play a leadership role in the Human Capacity and Technology development of a small satellite industry which is focused on technological advances for socio-economic benefits of Africa and its people.


Norman Fitz-Coy is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He established and now serves as the Director of the Advanced Space Technologies Research and Engineering Center (ASTREC), a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center that focus on  the development and validation of transformative technologies with specific application to small satellites
His involvement in small satellite systems spans his career and he has been instrumental in the development of small satellite research focus at the University of Florida. His research has received the Henry Pusey Best Paper Award and the IEST Maurice Simpson Technical Editors Award.
His current research interests are on small satellite systems with the design of control strategies for systems with multi-objective criteria, dynamics and control of multiple flexible-body dynamical systems, deployment dynamics for satellites and spacecraft, autonomous rendezvous and docking, ground vehicle dynamics, cooperative control for formation flight, system health monitoring, and strategies for reconfigurable systems.