South Africa's space agency advances new satellite and use of imagery

8th May 2017 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor reported on Monday that the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) has made significant progress in developing the country's next Earth observation (EO) satellite. She was giving the keynote address at the opening of the thirty-seventh International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment, at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.

"Sansa is in the final stages of the development of an optical EO satellite to support food security and disaster management across the continent," she said. "The optical satellite is a key part of South Africa's contributions to a broader continental effort to leverage the potential of space for development. Sansa and other South African science-based organisations are primed to support the African space programme."

Pandor also reported that Sansa had recently completed its new strategic framework for the next five years. "It positions the agency as a provider of space-based products and services through co-development with partners in the region and throughout the African continent. The Earth-observation-based products and services support the strengthening of country planning and evidence-based policy formulation throughout the continent."

She emphasised the importance of Earth observation for South Africa. "We use satellite imagery extensively in South Africa to support the different legislative mandates of government. The socioeconomic benefits of satellite imagery in planning and decision-making have long been recognised globally." She cited the example of satellite imagery from the SPOT satellite; Sansa uses this to create a natural-colour mosaic covering the whole land area of South Africa, every year. "The mosaic, together with its underlying base imagery, is provided without charge to national government departments, provincial government departments, parastatals, NGOs [nongovernmental organisations], science councils and tertiary education institutions. A single licence multi-user agreement which was negotiated by Sansa ensures affordable use of such imagery."

She hailed the recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Sansa and the Nepad Agency. "[W]e were absolutely thrilled when Sansa signed and MoU with Nepad," she asserted. "The MoU enables Sansa to provide Earth observation products and services that support the implementation of key programmes such as sustainable agriculture and food security, integrated water resources management, sustainable forestry management, as well as urban planning and infrastructure monitoring."

She highlighted that the Nepad 2025 Vision on the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme, the Action Plan for the Environment Initiative and the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative were all dependent on spatial decision support systems for success. In turn, Sansa's satellite remote sensing-based products and services "play a fundamental role in aiding [the] spatial decision support systems".