South Africa is home to a private space engineering consultancy named the Space Advisory Company (SAC), which is based in Somerset West.
SAC designs and develops hardware for use in outer space, from sub-systems on satellites to entire spacecraft for specialised missions.
Its work also includes advanced satellite imaging cameras and control models for lunar experiment modules.
Most of its work is for international projects, as South Africa does not get much local funding for space research and development.
Due to the nature of the work performed by the company, its staff are required to be highly skilled and passionate about space engineering.
To find out what it takes to build systems for outer space, MyBroadband spoke to SAC CEO Duncan Stanton about what the company looks for in potential employees.
Passion and expertise
“Space Advisory Company has more than 50 highly-skilled staff, the majority being from an engineering background with a master’s degree,” said Stanton.
“The typical qualifications that we require is at least a bachelor’s degree from a recognised university, although a master’s, and in certain instances an MBA or doctorate, are valued.”
As SAC is predominately a space engineering consultancy, with a focus on design and development, it takes a lot of responsibility for its projects.
“We therefore take the responsibility of the design of the hardware, be it digital or mechanical, outsource the raw manufacturing, and then take the responsibility to assemble, integrate, and test the various sub-systems and systems that form part of the spacecraft, or the complete spacecraft,” said Stanton.
“A critical part of the capability is to understand the unique and harsh environment of space,” he added.
While a technical degree is a requirement to work at SAC, the number of fields encompassed by the firm’s work are varied.
“A degree in electronics, mechatronics, or mechanical engineering is typical, with degrees in astrophysics, physics, information technology, and material sciences also of significant benefit,” he said.
Stanton said that having the skills, tools, and capabilities to design for outer space and understanding what is possible from the local and international hardware manufacturing vendors is key to the company’s success.
While SAC has built a successful company by contributing to international projects, Stanton said that additional local funding for research and development in the sector would facilitate the export of more intellectual property and allow the industry to grow much quicker in South Africa.