South Africa enters space race with launch of new space agency

South Africa has decided to have its own space agency to promote and also coordinate space science and technology programmes in the nation.

The long-awaited South African National Space Agency (Sansa) is going to be launched in Midrand, Johannesburg, on 9 December 2010.


Sansa’s National Space Strategy will be presented right away to put South Africa among global frontrunners in space science and technology.

A parliamentary Act to establish Sansa had been passed in December 2008, and ever since then the Department of Science and Technology has been spending so much time to make the body a reality.

“The South African National Space Agency will coordinate and integrate national space science and technology programmes and conduct long-term planning for the implementation of space-related activities in South Africa,” said the department’s spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele in a statement.


The agency is without a doubt expected to fast-track South Africa’s position in global space ventures. The Department of Science and Technology said one of the main goals of Sansa will certainly be to strongly encourage the peaceful use of outer space.

It’s also anticipated that Sansa will help to make it simpler for South African bodies to carry out their own astronomy research. The administration wants the agency to stimulate cooperation on space-related projects between the nation and the global community.

Global space agreements

The Department of Science and Technology said international deals will certainly be signed at the launch, as well as an inter-agency cooperative agreement together with the Algerian Space Agency on space science and technology.

A memorandum of understating will be agreed upon between Sansa and the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil and the China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application.

Mark Shuttelworth

A major deal will additionally be clinched to permit the reception and distribution of China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS-3) data within South Africa and the Southern African region, said the department.

Sansa’s CEO and a board of between 10 and 15 members are predicted to be introduced at the launch. The executives will be designated by the Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, as stipulated in the Act.

Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor

South Africa’s space institutions

South Africa is in fact already heading up a number of notable space projects, which includes the Square Kilometre Array, the Southern African Large Telescope and SumbandilaSat. Sansa will become the umbrella body that will will synchronize all these projects.

The agency will also incorporate the country’s current science and technology establishments, such as the Satellite Applications Centre run by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.


Most of these bodies already “play a significant role in the scientific study, exploration and utilisation of space”, according to the Department of Science and Technology.

The French South African Institute of Technology, based at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is one of the front-runners in establishing space science and technology in the country.


There are about 74 companies that trade within the aerospace and defence sector in South Africa, according to the International Astronautical Federation.

The federation will host its 62nd International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town in October 2011. This will be the first time such a congress is organised in Africa.

“South Africa has some of the best space infrastructure in Africa,” reads a report released by the department.


The actual country’s participation in astronomy dates back to 1685, at what time a temporary observatory was established in the Western Cape. Subsequently, a permanent observatory was set up in 1820 outside Cape Town.

Where can I study Astronomy and Space Science after school?

* The National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme
(run by a consortium of institutions)
University of Cape Town, Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
Private Bag Rondebosch 7701
Tel: (021) 650-2344/650-2334, Fax: (021) 650-2334

* University of Cape Town
Department of Astronomy, University of Cape Town
Private Bag Rondebosch 7700,
Tel: (021) 650-3342, Fax: (021) 650-3342

* University of the Free State
Department of Physics, University of the Free State
PO Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300,
Tel: (051) 401-2926/6158

* University of Natal, Durban
School of Pure and Applied Physics, University of Natal
Durban 4041, Tel: (031) 260-2775, Fax: (031) 261-6550

* University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, University of Natal
Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209
Tel: (033) 260-5326, Fax: (033) 260-5009

* Potchefstroom University
School of Physics, Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education
Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520
Tel: (018) 299-2423, Fax: (018) 299-2421

* Rhodes University
Department of Physics and Electronics, Rhodes University
PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140,
Tel: (046) 603-8450, Fax: (046) 622-5049

* University of South Africa
Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Astronomy
PO Box 392, UNISA 0003
Tel: (012) 429-6202, Fax: (012) 429-6064

* University of Stellenbosch
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Stellenbosch

Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602
Tel: (021) 808-4368, Fax: (021) 808-4981

* University of the Witwatersrand
School of Computational and Applied Mathematics
Private Bag-3, Wits-2050, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 717-6138, Fax: (011) 717-6149

Source: mediaclubsouthafrica.com, radionz.co.nz, boston.com, africaninspace.com

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