Feb 06, 2009
Why a South African national space agency?Back
Cape Town|Construction|Engineering|Africa|Exploration|Resources|Africa|Australia|South Africa|Space Agency|University Of Stellenbosch|Infrastructure|Kgalema Motlanthe|Supporting Technologies
© Reuse this
The National Space Agency Act is to pull together all the disjointed South African space-related activities under one banner, in an effort to synthesize technology and resources so as to provide for the establishment of a national space agency, which will implement a space programme in South Africa.
South Africa's history of involvement in space-related activities is a rich one, starting with astronomy, which has been practised in South Africa since 1685.
In 1820, a permanent observatory was established outside Cape Town. Astronomy has been practised continuously since then. The next 180 years saw continual scientific astronomical endeavours, culminating in the construction of the Southern African Large Telescope in Sutherland.
When the ‘Space Age' dawned, and satellites and men were first sent into space, South Africa was involved. From the 1950s to the 1970s, satellites were tracked from South African facilities to determine the effects of the upper atmosphere on their orbits.
Lunar and interplanetary missions were supported from a tracking station at Hartebeesthoek, near Krugersdorp. This station received the images of the planet Mars taken by the Mariner IV spacecraft. These were the first images of Mars and of another planet to be received on Earth.
In the 1980s, South Africa began work on a launcher and satellite, but this was discontinued in 1994. However, in 1999, South Africa launched its first satellite, Sunsat. The 64-kg microsatellite was built by staff and students at the University of Stellenbosch. The team that built Sunsat is currently planning the launch of a second, more capable South African satellite in March, called Sumbandila.
South Africa has a variety of institutions that play a significant role in the scientific study, exploration and use of space. These institutions, situated in academia, science councils and commercial industry, have broad competencies in satellite applications, satellite engineering and space science, including all the supporting technologies.
The existing infrastructure and skilled workforce, inside these facilities and in the wider industry supporting them, allows South Africa to position itself as a regional hub of space science and technology.
This can be used as a basis for strengthening ties with industry in established space-faring nations, and for developing links with other emerging national space initiatives, particularly in Africa.
South Africa is an active participant in the international space arena. South African space professionals participate in numerous specialist and political forums, such as the United Nations Committee on the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
Currently, South Africa and Australia are vying for the opportunity to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever to be established.
The SKA will consist of thousands of dishes between 10 m and 15 m in diameter. Special antenna tiles in the core of the array will form a ‘radio fish-eye lens' for all sky monitoring at low frequencies. This will allow many independent observations to be performed simultaneously.
A final decision regarding its location is to be given in 2010, while the construction is to begin in 2014. If built in South Africa, the core of the SKA will be in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province.
Outer stations will fan out from the core in a spiral pattern, with proposed remote stations in several other African countries and neighbouring islands.
Edited by: Laura Tyrer© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Aerospace News
The National Aerospace Centre (NAC) reports that it is planning to expand its skills development programmes by deploying them at more universities throughout South Africa to ensure the growth of skills development in the industry. NAC acting director Philip Haupt...
Defence, security and technology systems company BAE Systems says unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasing within the defence industry in South Africa and worldwide. In Massachusetts, in the US, BAE Systems has introduced one of the smallest multispectral...
Understanding the vast benefits of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology is a strategic priority for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as it is proving to have many applications within society worldwide. “As a result, UAV research is...
Recent Research Reports
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
Real Economy Insight: Steel 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the steel industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the global and South African steel and stainless steel markets, South Africa’s major steel producers and events that have shaped these markets.
This Week's Magazine
South African construction company Group Five says work on the rehabilitation of the 800 km stretch of the Plumtree–Mutare highway, in Zimbabwe, should be completed by the end of this year. Giving evidence before the Parliamentary Porfolio Committee on Transport...
The Space Operations division of the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) revealed on July 17 that it had supported the successful launch of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite on July 2. The...
Phase 1A of Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system should carry around 42 000 people a day, while it was been expected that Phase 1B, rolled out last year, would add another 60 000 daily passengers. However, the entire system is currently carrying...
A stormwater project in Bedforview, east of Johannesburg, has stalled for eight months after project managers in the Ekurhuleni municipality resigned and municipal managers were placed on special leave without designating replacements. Construction to reinforce the...
The design of the Beit Bridge border post is the biggest impediment to efficient freight movement between Zimbabwe and South Africa, says Cross-border Road Transport Agency CEO Sipho Khumalo. Beit Bridge is the busiest border post in Africa. A research study on the...
Next ArticleNew aircraft to touch down in Africa in 2011