UCT Space and Astronomy society’s first rocket launch

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By UCT Space and Astronomy society and Tiyani Rikhotso

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 5 of VARSITY News.


On the weekend of the Saturday 29th February 2020, UCT Space and Astronomy Society (SpaceSoc) organised for 20 UCT students to have the first ever UCT Amateur Rocketry Training session. The session was run by two rocket industry professionals from rocketry.co.za who shared an introduction to rocket science.


After a long day of learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills, students engaged through posing various questions. Then it was onto building SpaceSoc’s first ever model rockets. Each rocket was 1.3m tall but weighed less than 1.5kg as they are mainly built from cardboard. Included in the build were aerodynamic parts like fins, the electronics board to measure the height achieved by the rockets, and of course a nice paint job with spray-paint. The first ever UCT SpaceSoc rockets were named “UCT Swift” and “UCT SpaceSoc1“.


Image by Johann Grobler


“We hosted this ‘rocket science’ event to engage with students from various fields through the learning and sharing of technical and practical skills that go into building rockets, including the necessary theories. We were pleased with the outcome and look forward to more of these in the near future,” shared Chairperson Reikantseone Diretse when reflecting on the training session.


The following day, they launched the rockets and everything went smoothly. The rockets are reusable, so SpaceSoc will be able to put them together and hopefully relaunch again when the Covid-19 restrictions are over.


“The UCT Swift achieved a height of 241 metres, which now stands at the UCT record height, until we can optimise and launch again hopefully later this year,” shared Graham Morrison, secretary of SpaceSoc.


Image by Johann Grobler


SpaceSoc treasurer Brighton Thandabantu adds that for him “astronomy and space exploration are easily the two science fields that are both very interesting and highly inspiring. We have all looked up at the beautiful night sky and thought about all the stars and galaxies that we can effortlessly see with our naked eyes. Using cardboard and tape, one can make a small rocket and launch it. These are part of the things we do as SpaceSoc. I think that’s cool stuff. And that is why I am part of SpaceSoc”.


SpaceSoc’s next aims include setting up a simple, opensource satellite ground station and perhaps in the future building a Pocketqube (a 5cm cubed, small satellite).


The society has amateur astronomy viewings, astronomy talks, and visits to the Iziko Planetarium. They want to contribute to the enthusiasm of students in space and astronomy and they encourage students from all faculties to join (the membership is R50 for the whole year).


Image by Johann Grobler


To join, email:



To find out more about UCT SpaceSoc:

Facebook page (/uctsas)

Twitter (@UCTspacenastro)


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