The significance of a new IOT antenna for South Africa

On Friday 4 October 2013, SANSA hosted learners, members of the media and other dignitaries at its Hartebeeshoek facilities. This was to kick off the World Space Week events amidst the space fever that has hit our country. This is part of the 14th annual “World Space Week” which runs from 4 October to 10 October, both are key dates in space history.

The Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, while the Outer Space Treaty, which serves as the foundation of international space law, came into effect on 10 October 1967.

Space may seem a distant reality, but we only have to look around us to see the benefits it has brought to our daily lives. Images from space are now commonly used in plenty of sectors such as weather forecast, agriculture (smart farming), urban planning, monitoring de-forestation or supporting crisis management in case of flooding or large forest fires.

Space also creates unique opportunities to boost the economic performance of our continent. For one, it drives innovation. We can transfer technology from the space sector and create smart technologies and smart production. Spin-offs create further commercial uses which contribute to industrial growth.

Speaking at the inauguration event, Department of Science and Technology (DST) director-general Dr Phil Mjwara said “Nowhere do you see how exciting the interaction of science and technology can be than in space. Often our scientists set challenges which drive extraordinary
engineering achievements. Being part of another SANSA achievement as they inaugurate another successfully completed antenna is humbling and shows why SANSA continues to excel in this industry.”

He also expressed his pleasure in the progress SANSA has made since its formation saying that it is great that space exploration is becoming part of a national mission. He further pointed out that government can do more and will push our space industry activity to a new level.

The new In Orbit Test (IOT) facility consists of a new 10m Ku-DBS band antenna and an equipment room, outfitted with IOT equipment and infrastructure to assist clients to successfully commission new satellites. SANSA has years of experience and knowledge in the operation of IOT’s. The facilities will have a useful life stretching beyond the next decade and will be upgraded continuously to ensure the best possible service to the international space industry.

The now retired Dr Woodrow Whitlow of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) said it was encouraging to hear the director general “talk about the importance of space science with such enthusiasm. It is particularly gratifying that he acknowledges the parallel importance of curiosity-led and applied research, and the need for continued investment in science even in times of financial restraint.”

The South African Space Agency is now in its third year, and is performing a hugely valuable strategic role in supporting one of the SA’s most important and visible high tech industries. It is a powerful convener for the industry. It also recognises its important responsibility to be the leader in ensuring that space science and technology benefits society, the environment, the economy and the global community through products and services; research and  development; and human capital development.

The new Ku-IOT antenna was built in response to the growing demand by satellite owners for ground facilities that are essential to test the in-orbit communications performance of new geostationary satellites.

Space brings us many benefits therefore SANSA has to keep up with the latest in the industry if it wants to secure a place on the podium as Africa’s leading space-faring nation.

Vaneshree Maharaj