The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) is set to grow and expand its operations into a second ground station in the country, said Dr Valanathan Munsami, chief executive officer of the agency.
Munsami was delivering a keynote address at the 2021 biennial SpaceOps conference held virtually early this month. The conference is hosted in different countries and it was the first time an African country hosted it. The event was pencilled in for 2020 but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Munsami said there are about 12 new and different initiatives that have been identified and these range from teleports, new space weather facility and telecommunications satellites. “There is also the space infrastructure hub which will see the strengthening of the space value chain in South Africa,” said Munsami.
In September last year, minister of science and innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande launched the Space Infrastructure Hub to enable South Africa to build an “indigenous space capability”. The project was one of five top priority “catalytic projects” with high multiplier effects. When combined, the initiatives are projected to create more than 1.8 million direct and indirect jobs through their life cycle, according to government. He said they decided to make such an investment to re-position Sansa to deliver on these projects.
Munsami said while focus tends to be on the ‘upstream and downstream sectors’, space operations reside in the “midstream’ of the space ecosystem, describing it as a ‘glue that brings both the upstream and downstream activities together’. He explained that the upstream sector involves design, development and manufacturing of space platforms, while the downstream sector is about the products and services offering.
Munsami said the study conducted in 2016 estimated the global space sector was worth $340-billion. Of these $127-billion was earmarked for satellites services and $18-billion was set aside for satellite manufacture and launch.
Munsami said the ground support segment accounted for $113-billion. He said all of this constitutes about 30% of the global value chain, the remainder coming from the non-space sector.
Said Mnsami: “This underscores the value of space operations in the space value chain, and with a number of satellite missions and space exploration initiatives coming on line; the critical link of space operations in the space value is only set to significantly increase in the coming years.”
Munsami said in 2016 various African heads of state approved the African Space Policy and African Space Strategy signalling the growing interest and investment in the sector by the continent.
He said there are plans to establish an African Space Agency, adding that recently there have been increasing space activities on the African continent. He said to date the continent has spent around $4-billion on satellite development initiatives.
Munsami said Africa has been investing more on space activities. In 2019 the continent has spent about $250-million on space programmes and this doubled to $490-million in 2020. Munsami said as many as 110 new satellites are due to come on line in the African continent by 2024, in stark contrast to the 24 satellites that have already been launched so far.