December 9, 2010

South Africa Unveils National Space Agency

The minister of science and technology said that South Africa unveiled its national space agency on Thursday, aiming to become a leader in earth observation technology across the continent in 10 years.

"Our combined efforts at enhancing South Africa's space capabilities will be of immense value to the scientific community in the Southern African region," Naledi Pandor said, as quoted by the AFP news agency.

"We believe (the launch of SANSA) will stimulate investment and the local scientific research sector," she added.

Pandor said at the launch that the agency will produce timely data imagery to help detect natural disasters and monitor water resources around South Africa and the continent.

A government official said that the new agency will also attempt to revive several space facilities that were mothballed in the 1990s during apartheid rule.

However, the establishment of the agency's new structures will mean full operations will only resume in April 2012.

The agency's interim chief executive Sandile Malinga estimated that it would cost South Africa approximately $68.7 million a year to run the agency.

"These are conservative figures. Our satellites will be built here at home using local expertise. We are hoping that will help reduce cost," said Malinga.

South Africa joins Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt among other African countries that already have active space agencies.

The ministry said that South Africa had primarily been a consumer and a net importer of space technologies.

"There is a need to develop systems and sub-systems to support our requirements and to grow the local industry," the ministry said in a statement.