The new Deep Space Ground Station – which will be based in South Africa – will support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Westrrn Cape, South Africa (28 May 2020) – The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has entered into a partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to host a Deep Space Ground Station.
SANSA came into being in December 2010, but South Africa’s involvement with space research and activities started many decades earlier with helping early international space efforts in the second half of the 20th century and observing the Earth’s magnetic field at stations around Southern Africa.
SANSA was created to promote the use of space and strengthen cooperation in space-related activities while fostering research in space science, advancing scientific engineering through developing human capital, and supporting industrial development in space technologies.
The research and work carried out at SANSA focus on space science, engineering and technology that can promote development, build human capital and provide important national services. Much of this work involves monitoring the Earth and our surrounding environment and using the collected data to ensure that navigation, communication technology and weather forecasting services function as intended.
SANSA’s Head Office in Pretoria oversees SANSA operations and management of the Earth Observation programme (currently based in Hartebeesthoek); the Space Operations programme (formerly the Satellite Application Centre, located in Hartebeesthoek); and the Space Science programme (former Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, located in Hermanus); as well as a newly-established Space Engineering programme situated alongside the Head Office.
The new Deep Space Ground Station, which will be based in Matjiesfontein in the Western Cape, will support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
“To do anything important, it will take all of us, and we welcome South Africa’s participation and contribution. Space is for everyone, and we need to work together to solve future issues,” said Gregory Mann, an International Program Specialist at NASA.
It will be integrated into an existing network of three sites in the United States of America, Spain and Australia. As the fourth site, the station will complement the other three sites and provide improved coverage and redundancy for critical mission support. SANSA will operate, maintain and manage the station.
According to Dr Valanathan Munsami the Chief Executive Officer of the SANSA, “Continuous research and development are vital in any industry for it to thrive and at the rate and pace the space industry is developing, it’s appropriate for SANSA to partner with NASA on this study agreement.”
“The South African government is equally excited about this agreement, as it will provide many opportunities for those in the space industry, be it people focused on academia or providing technical and engineering skills, it has potential to contribute to the improvement of our science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries. Similarly to how South Africa supported NASA’s earliest space probes, leading up to the first moon landing, we are hopeful that our country will be part of future explorations and discoveries,” said Munsami.