The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) and the State-owned national air traffic management company, Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Tuesday. The MoU will strengthen cooperation between the two agencies, Sansa having expertise in a number of areas of actual or potential importance to ATNS and its customers.
“Our partnership with ATNS dates back to 2013 and the renewal of our cooperation is a testimony of this mutually beneficial relationship for the betterment of air traffic and airspace safety and security,” pointed out Sansa CEO Dr Val Munsami. “Sansa’s expertise in magnetic technology and our work relating to the impacts of space weather on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and High Frequency (HF) communications will further assist ATNS to ensure that our aviation industry operates within a safe, secure and well-regulated environment.”
“[The MoU] will ensure common goals and expectations between ATNS and Sansa are achieved and met,” affirmed ATNS CEO Dumisani Sangweni. He added that the MoU identified the main areas of cooperation that were most important for the strengthening and development of the local aviation industry.
One such key area of SANS expertise, of relevance to air navigation, was geomagnetism. Scientists around the globe have developed the World Magnetic Model and Sansa scientists have developed a regional magnetic model from which information can be derived that is, for Southern African users, more regular and more accurate than information from the WMM.
Sansa is also a Centre of Excellence for HF communications. ATNS uses HF voice communications as a secondary medium for contacting aircraft within its large oceanic area of responsibility. Sansa can predict how well HF communications would work over a certain time and area, using the IOCAP software, developed by the space agency itself.
Sansa will also be able to supply ATNS with space weather data. The space agency was already recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as a designated provider of space weather information. ATNS foresees that in future there will be value in adding space weather information to its Pre-Flight Information Bulletin service (which includes the famous Notices to Airmen, better known as NOTAMs).
Further areas of future cooperation between the two entities could include GNSS and Digital Terrain Data and satellite imagery. ICAO requires that each country carry out its own signal integrity monitoring of GNSS.