SA space agency aiming for R4.47bn in infrastructure funding

SA’s new space infrastructure hub is one of five priority projects identified by the recent sustainable infrastructure development symposium (Sids) initiative.
Image: 123RF/ROMOLO TAVANI

SA’s new space infrastructure hub will boost local space industry capabilities and provide the government and private sector customers with data sourced from new satellites geared to local needs, the CEO of the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) said on Wednesday.

The hub is one of five priority projects identified by the government’s recent sustainable infrastructure development symposium (Sids) initiative, which is part of its effort to boost economic growth with infrastructure investments.

“The success of the space programme is in its products and services. The infrastructure is just a means to achieving that end,” said Sansa CEO Val Munsami.

Sansa has Africa’s only satellite engineering capability and has the biggest and most developed ground segment on the continent. It also operates Africa’s only space weather centre and has its largest satellite imagery catalogue.

The space infrastructure hub pitch to Sids was valued at R4.47bn over the next three years. Funding is to be raised from debt, equity and parliamentary grants.

The project includes building new satellites for earth observation and space science missions, a new ground station, a new data visualisation centre, and developing products and services for the government.

Sansa has already secured R280m for several other projects, including:

  • upgrading the Houwteq satellite testing facility (R75m);
  • establishing a concurrent engineering design facility (R25m);
  • setting up a new space weather regional warning centre (R90m);
  • establishing an earth observation data cube facility (R12.5m); and
  • a R60m innovation fund to develop space products and services.

Higher education, science and innovation minister Blade Nzimande said four studies still have to be undertaken to unlock the investment funding from Sids: a bankable feasibility study, a market analysis study, a socio-economic cases study, and an implementation plan.

The project will position space data as a tool for sustainable development in fields such as remote sensing, navigation and space science, he said, adding that government departments and commercial enterprises currently source data from international satellites.

BY TAMAR KAHN

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