Many people don’t know that South Africa has it’s own space agency. Although it might be only 10 years old, the country has been participating in space research and assistance for years. Here are some of mzansi’s greatest space achievements.
Since around the 1840s, South Africa has had an operating Magnetic Observatory. This was first placed at the University of Cape Town but was later moved to Hermanus after the introduction of the electric railways system began interfering with the magnetic measurements.
The Observatory formed part of the first South African Antarctic Expedition (SANAE 1), when South Africa took over the Norwegian Station and was placed in control of magnetic and auroral observations.
Partnerships with NASA
South Africa has been involved in multiple partnerships with NASA, most notably when the facility at Hartebeesthoek became one of NASA’s 14 Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STADAN) stations. However, in 1975 NASA withdrew its involvement due to political conflict in the country.
NASA have signed an agreement in with SANSA for deep space research in 2020.
First private astronaut from South Africa
In 2002, Mark Shuttleworth became the first private citizen from South Africa to make it to the International Space Station. Since South Africa has no astronaut training programme or facilities, Shuttleworth trained for his mission at the Russian astronaut training facility in Star City.
South African Space Agency founded
Although South Africa had been participating in space observations for years, it was only in 2010 when it was decided to consolidate all the projects under one space agency.
The South African Large Telescope
The South African Large Telescope (SALT), is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. It became fully operational in 2011 and is made up of hexagonal primary mirror array 11 metres across, comprising 91 individual 1m hexagonal mirrors.
SALT provides world-class images of the universe for an international community of scientists and regularly makes discoveries of planets and stars that were previously unknown.
Space weather centre
SANSA is host to the only Space Weather Regional Warning Centre in Africa. It is part of the International Space Environment Service (ISES) and monitors the sun and its activity to provide information, early warnings and forecasts on space weather conditions. Monitoring space weather is important as it effects communication and navigation systems, in the defence, aeronautics, navigation and communication sectors.