South Africa to Launch National Space Agency

The emphasis of the agency will be on the utilization of space science and technology to enhance economic growth and sustainable development and thus improve the quality of life for all South Africans. The key focus areas are Environmental and Resource Management; Health, Safety and Security; and Innovation and Economic Growth. These focus areas will be supported by activities in space science and exploration, space applications and space technology.

According the James Mason of the African Space Institute, a non-profit organization promoting space sciences throughout Africa, SANSA’s initial focus will be on developing the space sector through investment in education, skills and technology development and by stimulating private industry.

Space can benefit almost all industries, but Mason cites applications like remote sensing, telecommunications and being a major STEM enabler that have measurable returns and tangible benefits that can be measured against South Africa’s development goals. Brad Inggs, also of the African Space Institute, sees SANSA adding a whole new chapter to Africa’s development.

Dr. Peter Martinez, a research astronomer at the South African Astronomical Society (SAAO), Chair of the South African Space Council, and current President of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP), says that international cooperation high on the agenda for SANSA. At the SANSA launch event Minister Pando will be signing agreements with Algeria, China and Brazil. The new agency will cooperate with Algeria, Kenya and Nigeria on the development of an African Resource Management satellite constellation. South Africa recently secured an agreement with NASA to share Earth science satellite data.

SANSA will add to South Africa’s long heritage of astronomical research excellence. Two major facilities, the Southern Africa Large Telescope and the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory have completed important repairs and upgrades. The Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7) became operational earlier this year. Plans are being developed for a Pan-African Very Large Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) as well as a network of robotic telescopes. SANSA working in cooperation with other space agencies will help extend Africa’s astronomy researchers’ reach into developing space-based missions, and this applies just as much, if not more, to Earth sciences.

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