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S.Africa launches its National Space Agency

posted 9 Dec 2010, 09:30 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Dec 2010, 09:32 ]

South Africa launches the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), following the successful launch of its first satellite, SumbandilaSat. The agency will coordinate and integrate national space science and technology programs and conduct long term planning for the implementation of space related activities in South Africa.

WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA REUTERS - South Africa's recent foray into the space sciences received a major boost on thursday (December 09) when the country's Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor officially launched South Africa's National Space Agency (SANSA) and National Space Strategy at the Midrand Conference Center.

SANSA signed an inter-agency cooperative agreement with the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) on space science and technology as well as Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the National Institute for Space Research ( Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais - INPE) of Brazil and China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application (CRESDA) for the reception and distribution of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CRERS-3) data within South African and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.

"What we are doing is working together to create a common constellation of resources and data providing satellites on the African continent build, led by South Africa but also with technology capability being used and developed in the countries that are partner countries," Pandor said.

The agency will coordinate all space related activities in South Africa, focusing on environmental and resource management, health, safety and security. Pandor said data provided by the agency and satellite imagery will put the country in a better position in making decisions concerning agriculture and how best to respond to natural disasters.

Also under the SANSA umbrella will be South Africa's first satellite, called SumbandilaSat, which generates satellite imagery at 6.25 m ground sampling distance resolution, and the data acquired will be used for agriculture and environmental monitoring in Southern Africa.

The National Space Strategy aims to promotes research in astronomy, earth observation, communications, navigation and space physics. It seeks to foster international cooperation in space related activities, and advances scientific, engineering and technological competencies through human capital development and outreach programs.

"We have invested in what is called a knowledge base economy and really looking at knowledge based institutions which the space agency run as the platform for increased economic development for South Africa through using our knowledge resources the space scientist, the intellectual out there, technologists to really get us far more active in the space sciences than we have been up to now." said Pandor.

Africa now has four countries with active space agencies. Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa.