Satellite built by South African high school students to be launched in November

XinaBox (pronounced: X in a Box) is the tech being used by high school students to collect data in space!

Over one hundred schools have participated in this ground-breaking space journey to collect data, aptly called the ThinSat® Programme.

Launch takes place on the 15th November 2018, with the Cygnus NG-10 mission from Wallops Island in Virginia, USA. Fifty-five student ThinSats will be deployed at an altitude of roughly 250km and will enter what is known as Extreme Low Earth Orbit (ELEO).

Their task will be to collect data at this unique altitude, which has never been studied before. The satellites’’ orbits will degrade and they will re-enter the atmosphere after ten days. As these pico-satellites are only the size of a slice of bread, they will burn up completely in the atmosphere, not endanger anyone on our planet.

Data collected by the satellites’ sensors will be transmitted using a GlobalStar radio, and display on a data dashboard for interpretation and analysis.

Schools participating include sixteen schools in the Western Cape of South Africa, collaborating on one ThinSat. These schools will be able to share their data with the USA-based schools collaborating on fifty-four ThinSats, collectively creating a BIGData project with never-before collected data.

The XinaBox sensors and the data to be collected include:

  • An inertial measurement unit (IMU) to measure and report the ThinSats’ angular rate, and the magnetic field surrounding the body, using a combination of accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers. This data will allow the students to calculate pitch, yaw and roll of the satellite to describe its flight,
  • A set of light sensors to assess visible light (lux), Ultra-Violet A and Ultra-Violet B. Using this data, the teams can calculate the light available for the solar cells to charge the on-board batteries, as well as the UV-Index experienced by the satellite, as it has no protection from our Earth’s atmosphere,
  • Multiple temperature sensors on the frame of the satellite, as well as the interior of the ThinSat. The satellites will experience extreme temperature swings from way below zero when in the Earth’s shadow, and over 150 degrees centigrade when in full sun. Everyone is hoping to collect the temperature profile as the ThinSat burns up in our atmosphere!
  • Radiation detection in the Infra-Red range, to complete the knowledge of the conditions the ThinSat finds itself,
  • Each set of six ThinSats will have a GPS giving their location in orbit, and at least one will have a camera for orbital selfies.

It’s never too late to join this mission, even though the deadline for building the satellites is past for this year, it is still possible to participate. Most of the sensors on the ThinSats are used every day in hundreds of classrooms and homes, so you can have your own FlatSat Earth atmosphere model to collect data to compare with the space data.

XinaBox sensors have tracked environmental data though the 2017 solar eclipse, monitored environments to see how closely they match those on Mars billions of years ago, and are being packed to be shipped to the International Space Station to support the crew with digital data.

Ideal Space Technologies Limited is an implementer of the XinaBox Space STEM programme in sub-saharan Africa. If you would like to know more, would like your school to participate or follow the programme, please contact Elizabeth at, or visit our website

About XinaBox:

XinaBox designs, develops, and sells modular electronics for the IoT and STEM education markets, in senior schools as well as universities. The technology allows for rapid IoT, embedded and electronics prototyping and development, without soldering, wiring or other hardware knowledge … just coding.

By radically reducing prototyping requirements using XinaBox’s xChips, the technology saves on laboratory equipment and engineering know-how, whether in schools, universities or industry. In the same breath, XinaBox accelerates speed-to-market by creating scalable and upgradable solutions.

Built-in redundancy ensures reliability, security and robustness.

  • No soldering
  • Digital
  • Standard sizes
  • Coding in minutes

The XinaBox community develops projects and experiments to solve challenges and answer questions requiring precise data collection and analysis.

XinaBox’s ecosystem comprises:

  • Sensors, digital and analogue inputs
  • Core processing modules
  • Power solutions
  • Output, radio, and communication solutions
  • Accessories and bridges to all popular single board computers

XinaBox is used in classrooms, industrial environments and in the field collecting research data in extreme environments, planning for space, the Moon, Mars and beyond.


The launch has been postponed to April 11, 2019