South Africa Joins NASA To Support Human Missions To Outer Space

  • The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has entered into a partnership with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to host a Deep Space Ground Station.
  • The station, which will be based in Matjiesfontein in the Western Cape, will support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
  • SANSA hopes to complete the project by 2023.

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has partnered with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to host a Deep Space Ground Station that will support human space flight missions to outer space.

Photo Credit: The South African National Space Agency.

This partnership will make South Africa the fourth country after the US, Spain and Australia to host a deep space ground station.

“The station will support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. It will be integrated into an existing network of three sites in the United States of America, Spain and Australia,” the South African government said in a statement on Monday.

“As the fourth site, it will complement the other three sites and provide improved coverage and redundancy for critical mission support. SANSA will operate, maintain and manage the station,” it said.

The partnership between SANSA and NASA comes almost half a century after a tracking station was built by NASA at Hartbeestfontein in South Africa in 1961 to track NASA probes that were being sent beyond the earth’s orbit.

The facility was converted to a radio astronomy observatory after the original venture ended in 1974 when NASA quit South Africa because of the growing international opposition to the white-minority apartheid government.

SANSA Managing Director Raoul Hodges, who spoke with Biznews on the partnership with NASA, said that the Deep Space Ground station will be based in Matjiesfontein town in the Western Cape Province.

SANSA Managing Director – Raoul Hodges

According to him, the advantage of its location at the southern tip of Africa, with the climate at Matjiesfontein being ideal for the frequency that will be involved in the space studies was the reason they chose the location.

Speaking on the benefits South Africa will get from its involvement in this project, Raoul Hodges said,

“It’s about the prestige. First of all to be in the international world space race, which we are part of. The second part is the development of the industry and once you start bringing this type of technology into a country; it fosters people to want to learn the industry, build satellites, build down segments and that type of stuff. So, it creates the opportunity for the industry to get involved long term. It fosters knowledge in a country like South Africa.”

He also added that SANSA was “over the moon” about the prospect of working with NASA again.

When Raoul Hodges was asked by Biznews about South Africa’s involvement in the partnership with NASA, he said,

“Well, South Africa has been involved in the space industry for around about 60 years. And you must remember that NASA was part of the South African space history which started in 1958 all the way to 1976 when NASA withdrew from South Africa. So, for us to be able to once again go into partnership or have study agreement with NASA for such a prospect, is huge. What will we do? Well, we have unique skills in South Africa for establishing such ground stations. I mean Hartebeesthoek presently has about 48 antennas. So we have got the skills to operate, maintain and manage such ground stations.

When asked about the time it will take to complete the project, Raoul Hodges said, “We hope to complete the study agreement, most probably by the end of this year. And then if all goes well and we can get to consensus; I believe we’re looking at 2023.”

READ ALSO: South Africa Urged To End Lockdown Soon To Prevent Economic Crisis

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