The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) and the National Space Strategy were formally launched on Thursday by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.
“The space industry is now big business,” she said,”it’s .. an industry that has enormous potential for future growth.”
She cited a the recently released UK Space Strategy, which stated that the global space industry market is forecast to grow from £160-billion (about R1 760-billion) in 2008 to at least £400-billion (some R4 400-billion) by 2030, amounting to a yearly growth rate of 5% in constant 2007 values.
“Investing in space science is investing in economic development,” she affirmed.
Pandor explained that the strategy had been developed before the launch of the space agency to ensure that “when we launched [Sansa] we were aware of what we will do for the next ten years.”
The space agency will have three priorities, explained Sansa board chairperson Maurice Magugumela – environment and resource management; health, safety and security; and innovation and economic development.
To meet these priorities, Sansa will focus on six areas – space-based earth observation; space operations (satellite mission control; spacecraft telemetry, tracking and control; and launch support); space science (with a focus on multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research); space engineering (including design, development and manufacture of satellites); human capital development; and science advancement and public engagement.
Sansa acting CEO Dr Sandile Malinga reported the agency would have four centres – Sansa Earth Observation, Sansa Space Operations, Sansa Space Science, and Sansa Space Engineering. For this year, the focus will be mainly be on “corporate governance” – setting up Sansa as a separate organisation.
During the next financial year, starting on April 1, the second phase of the development of the agency will begin, with the incorporation of existing bodies such as the Satellite Applications Centre and the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory. “Sansa will be inheriting well-founded and successful entities,” asserted Malinga.
With this process under way, the agency will also start implementing some of the programmes listed in the National Space Strategy, including the creation of Centres of Competence. Full operationalisation of Sansa will follow in 2012 and 2013.
Currently, Sansa is being funded by an interim budget. For the next financial year, the budget is expected to be in the range of R400-million to R500-million.
The dual launch of Sansa and the space strategy was also marked by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Sansa and the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research and the Chinese Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application, in terms of which the South African agency will receive and distribute within South and Southern Africa images from the Sino-Brazilian CBERS-3 satellite (due to be launched next year).
Pandor stated that this trilateral space cooperation “is going from strength to strength. We’re looking at what further work we can do. It really is a strong partnership that we have.”