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SA in charge of space weather

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The country’s space science programme was feeding the knowledge economy and placing the national system of innovation at the centre of South Africa’s developmental agenda

File Photo: IOL

SOUTH Africa had won an extraordinary victory in space science with the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) being chosen to provide space weather information for the continent, the country’s ministry of science and technology said yesterday.

Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said South Africa was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to become the designated regional provider of space weather information to the entire aviation sector using African airspace.

“This means that every aircraft flying in the continent’s airspace will rely on Sansa for the space weather information it needs to submit as part of its flight plan.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said: “Space weather, which can influence the performance and reliability of aviation and other technological systems, is caused by the Sun, the nature of the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and the Earth’s location in the solar system.

“Space weather can lead to reduced signals from global navigation satellite systems, adversely affecting navigation, increased radiation, which can destroy human cells and tissue, especially during long-haul flights, and blackouts of high-frequency radio communications, which are critically important for the aviation and marine sectors.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said Sansa’s designation by the ICAO presents an opportunity to further use the newly revamped space weather centre at Hermanus in the Western Cape.

The centre’s monitoring of the sun and its activity has been providing the country with vital early warnings and forecasts on space weather conditions, and these benefits will now be extended to the international aviation community.

The upgraded centre was unveiled by Kubayi-Ngubane in April 2018 and processes were currently under way to secure additional funding to further capacitate the centre for the huge task that lies ahead.

“The international community has supported South Africa’s ICAO designation, and has demonstrated confidence in Sansa’s ability to provide the services required. The process that Sansa underwent to achieve this designation has already enhanced South Africa’s reputation in the space science and technology field.”

She said since South Africa was the only African country with operational space weather capabilities, it would engage with other countries on the continent on data sharing, infrastructure hosting, training, product development, and research collaboration opportunities.

The country’s space science programme was feeding the knowledge economy and placing the national system of innovation at the centre of South Africa’s developmental agenda. – African News Agency (ANA)