Welcome address by SANSA CEO at Inaugural National Space Conference

Delegates at the National Space Conference 2023

Delegates at the National Space Conference 2023

Distinguished officials esteemed invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow space enthusiasts!

A very good morning to each and every one of you. I extend a warm welcome to the National Space Conference 2023, a pivotal gathering that propels us toward a future of limitless possibilities. It is with immense pride and humility that I stand before you today, assuming the role of CEO for our nation’s esteemed space agency. Together, we embark on a journey driven by a visionary purpose that kindles our spirits and binds us as one.

In acknowledging the distinguished legacy of South Africa in the realms of innovation and scientific attainment, I am confident that you share my conviction – that our nation has fostered exceptional engineers and scientists whose global contributions remain indelible. Yet, the complexity of the challenges before us calls for collective cooperation that transcends individual capabilities. These intricacies, both multi-faceted and multifarious, stretch beyond the capacities of any singular entity present here today. It is incumbent upon us to engineer unity among engineers, scientists, technologists, policymakers, and private enterprises. Through forging collaborative bonds across disciplines, we unlock the potential of cross-disciplinary ingenuity. This, in turn, lays the foundation for transformative solutions that steer our national space programme towards sustainable, resilient, and globally competitive horizons.

Within the cosmic expanse, we not only encounter the vast universe but also glimpse our collective aspirations. Our agency’s novel vision epitomises this aspiration – envisioning a South Africa surmounting its confines, propelled by innovation, accountability, and a profound dedication to service.

The tumultuous wake of COVID-19 has imparted an unwavering lesson – adaptability is key to crisis response, but more importantly, to a culture of perpetual evolution. We reside within a world characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – a world we often term as VUCA. This landscape necessitates ceaseless learning, unlearning, and relearning for relevance. As SANSA, we shoulder the imperative to evolve while innovating, directing our efforts towards purpose-fit programmes. These programmes fortify our nation’s development, enhance service delivery, and bridge the gap between abundance and scarcity.

As the cusp of a new era beckons, leadership is defined not by authority but by service. Our foremost mission is clear – to serve our most vital constituency: the citizens of South Africa. Every stride we take, every choice we make, every resource we steward echoes our unwavering commitment to effect substantial change in their lives.

A new dawn rises at SANSA. Our trajectory is set to catalyse success across diverse avenues. With profound pride, boundless excitement, and unwavering commitment, our team diligently advances an ambitious endeavour. This endeavour unites physical infrastructure with state-of-the-art Big Data technologies. It takes root in strengthening our engineering capacity and capability to focus on technologically advanced mission development for forthcoming South African satellites, amplifying satellite communication capabilities, and crafting indigenous satellite navigation augmentation systems. These systems hold promise to significantly heighten the global navigation satellite system accuracy within our nation and the broader region.

The recent completion of the Cost-Benefit Analysis for the Space Infrastructure Hub underscores the hub’s affirmative influence on the economy, job creation, and various sectors. Enhanced planning, cost efficiency, and efficacy stand as outcomes, with the hub’s revenues augmenting local governance.

At the Matjiesfontein site, where the Deep Space Ground Station Network will be situated, is our new quest to contribute to space exploration. This is a transformative alliance between SANSA and NASA, amplifying lunar exploration. The project spans a state-of-the-art communication facility pivotal to the Artemis missions and the rekindling of lunar human presence. This facility will also contribute to other deep space missions and forge new strategic partnerships. Surveys, ranging from Topographical and Geotechnical assessments to Radio Frequency Interference analysis, paved the way. The Geotechnical survey’s inclusion of Matjiesfontein locals proved invaluable, fostering community engagement.

We launched PANEOS in tandem with ROSCOSMOS, vital for space debris monitoring – safeguarding our space assets and future manned space missions. The Agency will be focusing on building capacity in the areas of space situational awareness and space traffic management.

With the exciting Houwteq AIT Facility Upgrade, SANSA Space Engineering elevates Assembly, Integration, and Testing Facilities at Houwteq (HTQ), Western Cape, which will serve the satellite build programme. This strategic upgrade aligns with the National Space Strategy and national priorities of developing strategic infrastructure. Its core thrust ensures facility readiness for operational ventures. A harbinger of space industry development, the facilities inaugurate space business prospects.

Coming to the Space Weather Centre: This is Africa’s lone Space Weather Regional Warning Centre, operational 24/7. A milestone marks eight trained operational Space Weather Forecasters, seven being young black women and one, a black male. This Centre fosters financial sustainability and business horizons, in line with supporting science diplomacy and internationalisation as outlined by the DSI.

Earth Observations – EO Products and Services synchronise with decision-making processes. Offerings span Water Resources Management, National Human Settlement Layer, contributing to disaster risk reduction, and food security.

Peering into the horizon, our focus intensifies:

Earth Observation – buttressed by government efforts in DDM, grassroots innovation, and service delivery. This interfaces local community centres with Earth Observation visualisation platforms. Building technological capacities at local levels, to empower communities to use EO to develop relevant and impactful applications and business opportunities. EO will be focusing and contributing to cross-cutting service areas such as the circular economy, green energy, blue economy, health innovation, security, and defence applications, as well as strengthening capacity in food security (precision agriculture) and disaster risk reduction through the development of early warning systems. The new EO focus has shifted towards the development of Earth Intelligence (encompassing environmental, social, and economic intelligence). There will be a huge focus on new areas of growth and potential markets in economic sectors such as banking, insurance, and mining to ensure the financial sustainability of the Agency.

Space Science – fortified Space Weather Capability with user requirements for future technology development and expanding our client and stakeholder base to ensure the financial sustainability of the Centre. Other initiatives span the National Magnetic Standard development and expanded research in space sciences.

Space Operations – the world evolves; the ‘new normal’ is VUCA. Innovation propels collaboration and partnerships in South Africa’s space programmes, accentuating our role in space diplomacy and internationalisation. In responding to the new strategic focus emphasis, the use of our geographic advantage in attracting global advanced space agencies and commercial companies for our sites to host facilities and generate revenue that will be re-invested to enhance the space programmes’ capacities and capabilities, and ensure the financial stability of the Agency.

Space Engineering – a mission design environment for space missions through our CDEF, and we are currently finalising a comprehensive Space Acquisition Framework for the satellite build programme. Launch services and South Africa’s launch capability revitalisation underscore industry growth.

We are gearing up to make bold moves, thus we contemplate building a spaceport – a potent testament to our capabilities: A facility that will serve the African region and the global space community. We believe that we have the capability to achieve this goal.

As SANSA, we recognise the taxpayers’ trust and assume stewardship of their resources. Every programme, every satellite, and every scientific endeavour echoes our accountability. We get that our victories are the nation’s victories!

SANSA’s new vision and the crafting of the Agency’s Investment and Sustainability Strategy. Africa will be our main focus, as we plan to co-design and co-develop future satellite missions and space applications with a number of key and strategic partners in the region.

Innovation is a necessity propelling us forward. We foster a culture of intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship – empowering individuals to innovate and elevate productivity. And this will be embedded in all SANSA’s flagship initiatives.

Our vision is a shared commitment. Let us be history’s participants, shaping it. We break barriers, explore horizons, and inspire generations.

With that, I commit to leading the team in catalysing the space sector, by continuing to learn as we innovate.

As many of you are aware, we regrettably bid farewell to Lee-Anne just a few days ago. May her soul rest in peace. I see it fitting to dedicate this conference to Dr. Lee-Anne McKinnell, a remarkable individual who played an indelible role in advancing SANSA’s mission. Please join me in giving her a resounding round of applause for the profound and far-reaching contributions she dedicated to our cause. May her legacy endure and inspire generations to come.

Thank you for joining the National Space Conference. Let’s aim for the stars; South Africa’s space exploration future is brilliant!

To infinity and beyond!

Thank you very much


Mr. Humbulani Mudau


Vaneshree Maharaj