South Africa’s Space Agency Announces its Expansion Plans

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) is set to expand its operations by opening a second ground station in the country, said Dr Valanathan Munsami, chief executive officer of SANSA. Dr Munsami mentioned this while delivering a keynote address at the biennial SpaceOps conference held virtually earlier this month.

“There are about 12 new initiatives that have been identified, including a new space weather facility, telecommunications satellites, and the space infrastructure hub that will strengthen the space value chain in South Africa,” said Munsami. 

In September 2020, the 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 the five top priority “catalytic projects” with high multiplier effects. According to the South African government, these initiatives would provide an estimated 1.8 million direct and indirect job.

Dr Munsami explained that while the 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 clarified that the upstream sector involves designing, developing, and manufacturing space platforms, while the downstream sector is about the products and services offering.

Dr Munsami said that the study conducted in 2016 estimated that the global space sector was worth USD 340 billion. Of these, USD 127 billion was earmarked for satellites services, designing, developing, and manufacturing and USD 18 billion was set aside for satellite manufacture and launch. At the same time, the ground support segment accounted for USD 113 billion. He said all of this constitutes about 30% of the global value chain, the remainder coming from the non-space sector.

Munsami said Africa has been investing more in space activities. In 2019 the continent spent about USD 250 million on space programmes, which doubled to USD 490 million in 2020. Munsami said as many as 110 new satellites are due to come online in the African continent by 2024.

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