South Africa sees space as key to country's technological development
South Africa is placing a lot of emphasis on space - it now forms part of its Department of Science and Technology's 10-year innovation plan and the country also has a national space strategy.
The major focus area for SANSA - the South African National Space Agency - for the next year is the establishment of a National Space Programme with its Space Vision 2030.
More than 50 leading experts participated in an initial workshop held in November last year. They are now working on defining the priority programmes, and involving industry and important stakeholders in the process.
Participants are already active on the shared working website contributing and debating the future National Space Programme and there are 40 individuals contracted to participate in four working groups
It is also involved in satellite navigation through ESESA, a European Union Framework Programme Seven project. The project was completed in 2011 after investigating extending the European European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) system to Southern Africa, primarily for use in the aviation sector. EGNOS is an augmentation system that allows for more precise satellite-location services with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.
SANSA is helping to develop the technical requirements for an EGNOS extension to South Africa. A joint task force led by the European GNSS Agency (EGSA) met for the first time in early October.
Once a report is produced, the European Union and Republic of South Africa will then decide to engage in a longer EGSA Service Definition phase. This could last up to 15 months and would involve the development of more detailed specifications.
The country is increasingly reliant on space-based services and applications, particularly in terms of satellite earth observations, telecommunications, navigational positioning and timing.
The country has also made major strides in astronomy, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) projects.
It thinks that creating a robust and effective space capability will increase South Africa's economic prosperity, plus the sharing of space-related scientific and engineering knowledge is critical to developing human capital for a stronger technological base.
PICTURED: The satellite ground station at Hartebeesthoek