SANSA supports Curiosity, MOM and LADEE

Did you know that the South African National Space Agency is involved in many of the global space missions currently under way?

The Space Operations directorate provided launch support for the Mars Curiosity mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on 25 November 2011. The 950kg Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft housing Curiosity, larger than any of its predecessors, separated from the launch vehicle while over African airspace and SANSA monitored it on NASA’s behalf. Curiosity travelled 567 million kilometres to Mars, has a power nuclear source and has been working around the clock for nearly 300 days.

More recently, SANSA supported its second Mars mission when the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) contracted the agency to provide tracking, telemetry and command services for the first Asian mission to Mars – the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). SANSA’s Hartebeesthoek ground station was specifically chosen because it’s “ideally located to be the closest point to the satellite per pass,” says Pandey Shyam, an ISRO scientist stationed at SANSA for the duration of the testing. The Martian orbiter is set to reach its destination in September this year, with a scheduled trajectory correction in August. Its total journey is around 480 million kilometres, of which it has completed about two-thirds.

The NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), or “laddie”, was also supported by SANSA. LADEE collected data to better scientists’ understanding of solar bodies like moons and asteroids. The robotic mission orbited the moon for six months, gathering information about the lunar atmosphere. On 18 April 2014, LADEE was intentionally allowed to run out of fuel and crash into the Moon’s surface, ending the mission.

Hi, my name is Mangalyaan

The Mars orbiter is also known as Mangalyaan, which means Mars-craft in Hindi

Vaneshree Maharaj