James Barrington-Brown, the founder of aerospace company, NewSpace Systems.
  • A company in Somerset West manufactures sensors and control systems that are used in NASA  spacecraft.
  • The company currently exports their components to 19 countries across five continents
  • NewSpace Systems had to find international funders. 

A small company in Somerset West manufactures high-tech components for a number of global companies, including the American space agency NASA, which is using its sensors for a deep space mission to demonstrate interplanetary propulsion.

NewSpace Systems, founded by James Barrington-Brown, has sensors destined for another mission to the moon that will launch later this year.

Magnetorquer rod Photo: NewSpace Systems

"We like to joke that we are a bunch of rocket scientists, but we actually make the sensors and control systems that sit in the satellite launched on top of the rockets," he says.

The company is also involved in supplying magnetic actuators (which convert electric current into satellite movement) for a large communications satellite constellation.

"The constellation will beam broadband communication to every point on the earth, including rural areas in the continent with no access to the internet."

Patch Antenna Photo: NewSpace Systems

The company currently exports its components to 19 countries across five continents. But to fund its recent projects, it had to approach Chinese and European investors.

"South African investors and banks are still very conservative when it comes to funding. It's a niche market, they don't understand the business, so it is a big risk for them".

NewSpace Systems was founded four years ago, through a joint venture between South African aerospace company, SCS Aerospace Group, and the now defunct Dutch company, SSBV.

Barrington-Brown was the founder of SSBV's UK subsidiary, where the space component product line was initially developed and manufactured before it was relocated to South Africa. An electronics engineering graduate himself, he has over 25 years experience in the commercial satellite industry.

Front row from left: Agnethe Diedericks and Peter Booi. Back row from left: Premie Pillay and Denver Elbrink

He chose to settle in Somerset West due to its close proximity to Stellenbosch University.

"The innovation of new technology is rare and tends to be borne out of universities." He has also partnered with the University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria and Central University of Technology.

The company offers bursaries to UCT students looking to venture into new technologies. A recent FNB Business Innovation Awards finalist, the company currently has 21 people on its team.

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