Highlight Of The Heads of Emerging Space Agencies Plenary At IAC 2019

Dr Val Munsami introducing South Africa's space programme during the special plenary on emerging space programmes at IAC2019
Dr Val Munsami introducing South Africa's space programme during the special plenary on emerging space programmes at IAC2019

At the ongoing 70th International Astronautical Congress(IAC 2019) in Washington D.C., United States, heads of emerging space agencies held a special plenary on how emerging countries present significant growth potential and challenges they encounter on their path to growth.

The special plenary was moderated by Pontsho Maruping, Chair of the Scientific and Technical Committee, at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Panellists during session include Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General, UAE Space Agency (UAESA), Dr Valanathan Munsami, CEO, South African National Space Agency (SANSA), Anond Snidvongs, Executive Director, Thai Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), Carlos Augusto Teixeira de Moura, President, Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) and Zolana Rui Joao, General Manager, Angola’s National Space Program Management Office (GGPEN).

Speaking at the panel, Dr Munsami announced the progress South Africa is making in three key focus areas: space weather, small satellite programmes and ground segment. With South Africa’s growing capacity in the ground segment, SANSA is looking forward to contributing to global space exploration missions such as NASA’s Artemis and Gateway programmes through the utilization of its deep-space ground infrastructure.

Dr Munsami also announced that SANSA has received a three-year commitment from the South African government to build a new space weather centre with the goal of offering cutting-edge space weather services to the regional and global market. Over USD 300million have been invested in radio astronomy program in South Africa including the development of data processing and analysis platforms; he continues.

Zolana said that space activities in Angola are focused on addressing fundamental socio-economic challenges such as poor connectivity and inadequate communication infrastructure in areas where terrestrial technologies are not commercially viable. The need to bridge the gap in connectivity motivated Angola’s interest in space which led to the acquisition of the country’s first communications satellite AngoSat-1.

“Currently Angola is collaborating with Russia to develop AngoSat-2, a replacement communications satellite for AngoSat-1 which failed in orbit. Also, we are working with Airbus Defence and Space to develop AngoSat-3, an Earth observation satellite,” he adds.

GGPEN is focusing on space education and awareness to bring the knowledge of space and its benefit to everyone in Angola including the political elite and the younger generation. The Agency recently released a comic book aimed at educating kids across schools in Angola about space and satellite technology.

As part of the strategy of growing human capacity in downstream space services management in Angola, GGPEN acquired in June 2019 the OpenGeoLab, an integrated satellite operations management facility from Thales Alenia to train Angolan specialists on the management of Earth observation data and satellite operations.

“At the moment we are focusing on space education and growing capacity in downstream satellite services while collaborating with international partners for our upstream capability and space infrastructure,” Zolana added.

Other panellists highlighted space activities in their various countries and responded to questions from the moderator and the audience.