Dr. Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education and training, on Wednesday announced an ambitious and ground breaking space project that will enable South Africa to build “an indigenous space capability”.
Called the Space Infrastructure Hub (SIH), the project will cement the country as one of the most advanced space and satellite operators on the continent and globally.
It is believed the project “will position space data as a tool for sustainable development, especially addressing government’s national priorities and for commercial use in thematic areas such as remote sensing, navigation, and space sciences”.
South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has been awarded R4.47 billion in additional funding over the next three years, to develop and manage the hub.
Nzimande said: “I am very pleased and excited that we have reached this stage and milestone in developing and launching this hub which will play a very important role in supporting government’s programmes.”
He said his department is collaborating with other sister government departments to drive a number of exciting programmes one of which is the engineering design facility which will cost R25 million, adding they will also establish a new space weather centre for R90 million.
Nzimande said they will expend a significant amount of time and resources on re-positioning SANSA to deliver on these exciting projects. He said they have also set up SANSA Space Infrastructure Hub leadership team to deliver on the key objective of the plan.
SANSA’s chief executive officer, Dr. Valanathan Munsami said: “The success of the SIH is on its products and services and the infrastructure is just an enabler,” he said.
He said the genesis of the hub dates back to 2007 with a specific mandate of helping government departments to make informed policy decisions by using space products and services.
Munsami said government is their primary user of their services and products because it uses evidence-based data to inform its policy positions. He said other tiers of government as well rely on the hub services: provincial government uses the space data primarily to implement policies while the local government uses it to plan and monitor its infrastructure projects.
He said they are now looking to bring in the business sector as their secondary target user. At the moment they have identified banking and insurance sector which uses our data to inform their choices around investment and analytics, said Munsami.
He said they will use suites of satellites at their disposal to understand their key user requirements. These will be designed to speak specifically to their requirements and once they have been designed, developed and manufactured and then deployed into orbit we then move to the ground infrastructure, said Munsami.
“The focus of the ground infrastructure is to talk to the satellite and make sure they are healthy; for instance to make sure that their level of battery power and the instrumentation work optimally. We then bring the data back down and once the data is downloaded it is moved to our data segment, which as the minister said is a R12 million investment,” said Munsami.
He said once the data has been harvested it is then put in the high performance storage facility where it is processed and it is turned into valuable information that government, its departments and other partners can use.