The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) will be launching the South Africa Space Weather Centre on Thursday, 3 November 2022 at Hermanus in the Western Cape. Having completed the construction of the 24/7 space weather centre with the support of the Department of Science and Innovation, SANSA is set to avail new offerings, including space weather forecasting and alerts of harmful space weather phenomena, to South Africa and Africa at large.
The space weather centre will be launched by Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation for the South African Government. The South African Space Agency contributed about USD 1.9 million and received USD 3.8 million from the Department of Space and Innovation for the development of the state-of-the-art centre.
South Africa, through SANSA, was selected as one of two ICAO-designated Regional Space Weather Centers – the other being a joint Centre by Russia and China, in 2018. The implications of this designation meant that a full operational capability that meets the ICAO requirements, needed to be put in place by 2024, as well as advanced research capabilities in the space weather field.
Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, Managing Director, Space Science at SANSA explained the Space Weather Centre’s importance as a benchmark for excellence on the African continent.
“The new Space Weather Centre will be a state-of-the-art building that we can all be proud of, and the SANSA Hermanus campus will become something akin to a ‘space park’ – the importance will not only be in what the building symbolises, but it will also be in the value proposition for the nation and the continent that we have created by developing a national capability in critical skills, a service that accrues domain-specific and public good benefits, positioning South Africa amongst global experts offering solutions to this global challenge of space weather, and a motivational driver for young South Africans that are our future space scientists”.
In August 2021, the South African cabinet approved and welcomed the designation of South Africa as a Regional Space Weather Centre for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) during its meeting and SANSA has been developing its capacity and laying the infrastructure to ensure readiness to serve aviation and other sectors.
With the increasing need to monitor space weather due to its social and economic impact on our communities and technologies, SANSA has made steady progress on upgrading its capacity to an operational 24/7 Space Weather capability.
Heads of African space agencies, including the Dr Zolana Joao, DG, Angola Space Management Office and Dr Pianos Gweme, Coordinator, Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency, amongst others, have arrived in South Africa ahead of the launch to engage on SANSA’s African partnerships.
Ayooluwa Adetola is a writer and editor at Space in Africa. She loves to share scientific information using the simplest words possible. When she’s not in front of a screen, she can be found with her nose buried in a book.