9 February 2009
President Kgalema Motlanthe last month signed into law the South African National Space Agency Bill, which could see South Africa setting up its own space agency later this year to pull together all space-related activities in the country under a single organisation.
The Act, first published in the Government Gazette on 15 December last year, is seen as a step in the right direction, given the country’s rich heritage of involvement in modern astronomy, which dates back to 1685, when the first temporary observatory was established in the Cape.
“The agency will promote the peaceful use of outer space; foster research in astronomy, earth observation, communications, navigation and space physics; foster international cooperation in space-related activities; and advance scientific, engineering and technological competencies through human capital development and outreach programmes,” the Department of Science and Technology said in a statement last month.
“The agency must facilitate the development of space missions, develop technological platforms, and acquire, assimilate and disseminate space satellite data for any organ of state.”
National Space Strategy
The agency will also implement the National Space Strategy, which was approved by the Cabinet in December 2008, to stimulate the capability to place South Africa among the leading nations in the innovative utilisation of space science and technology.
The agency is also expected to bring together the work of several institutions and harness their capacities to leverage billions of rands to boost the economy and create more jobs.
“Some of the projects it will co-ordinate include the Square Kilometre Array bid, the Southern African Large Telescope, and South Africa’s second indigenous satellite, SumbandilaSat,” the department said.
Establishing a board
According to the department, the first step towards the establishment of the agency will be to appoint a board of between 10 and 15 members, a CEO who is an ex officio member, and a chairperson appointed by the minister of science and technology.
“The board will advise the minister on any matter relating to space affairs that may influence the functions of the agency, monitor the research priorities and programmes of the agency and, after consultation with the minister, establish or dissolve any of the agency’s organisational divisions.”
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