SpaceOps 2014

SpaceOps1After successfully hosting a stand as a first-time exhibitor in Stockholm, Sweden in 2012, SANSA became a member-at-large of the International Committee on Technical Interchange for Space Mission Operations and Ground Data Systems (SpaceOps).

Every two years, the worlds' major space-faring nations get together to discuss the latest operations technology, trends and best practices used in the field. This year, the SpaceOps 2014 conference and exhibition took place in Pasadena, USA, from 5-9 May. At the event, SANSA submitted a request to bid for SpaceOps 2018.

At SpaceOps 2014, SANSA moved to Executive membership status. At the Executive's meeting, Tiaan Strydom, SANSA Space Operations International Business Manager, submitted SANSA's nomination to host SpaceOps 2018. The winning bidder will be announced in the course of the next six months.

 The next SpaceOps conference and exhibition will be hosted by KARI (Korea Aerospace Research Institute) in Daejeon, Korea.

Final manoeuvres on NASA's LADEE performed from SA ground station


An artist's concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft seen orbiting near the surface of the moon.

Image Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry 

Hartebeesthoek, 25 April 2014. It has been confirmed that NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the Moon on 17 April 2014, following a number of final manoeuvres performed from the South African National Space Agency's (SANSA) Hartebeesthoek station.

"We have been supporting this mission since the date of launch," says Tiaan Strydom, International Business Manager at SANSA Space Operations. "Our team played an important role in providing various TT&C support services to the probe since launch in September 2013, with this coming to an end as the final manoeuvres were executed together with other ground stations, tasking the probe to deorbit," explains Strydom. This placed the LADEE into a trajectory to impact the far side of the moon.

How can you be sure where you are?

Eugene compressedScientists and engineers at SANSA Space Operations are working on a South African version of a much more accurate satellite navigation system.

Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) typically use multiple ground stations at a precisely-surveyed location to take measurements from orbiting navigation satellites. This brings better accuracy, integrity, continuity and availability to a navigation system.

"To put it simply, navigation satellites tell you where you are, but an SBAS system confirms the information is correct and safe for functions such as landing planes in bad weather and operating vehicles without drivers," says Eugene Avenant, Chief Engineer at SANSA Space Operations.

Europe's SBAS system, known as EGNOS, was certified in March 2011 after ten years of effort.

There was talk for a few years of extending EGNOS to South Africa, but a technical review showed there was little benefit because Europe and South Africa does not see the same constellation of navigation satellites at any one time resulting in poor performance for the South African extension.

"We concluded that it was better to build our own and to share it with other neighbouring African states," Avenant says. By borrowing from the technology and experience of EGNOS, South Africa hopes to have an enhanced satellite navigation system in place by 2020.


New upgrade gives SANSA the international edge

DSC03244A recent Ka-band antenna upgrade is putting SANSA Space Operations at Hartebeesthoek in a uniquely competitive position to monitor a new wave of satellites launched over the southern hemisphere.

In 1997 Hartebeesthoek installed the first Ka-band tracking, telemetry and command antenna in order to support the launch of a US Ka-band satellite constellation which broadcast to three American television networks.

Installation and staff training on the antenna took nine months. For the next fifteen years, a small part of the Ka-band spectrum was used, and only irregularly. The Ka-band has recently become more popular as a satellite frequency, prompting SANSA to invest in an upgrade which will enable the Space Operations team to support more launches and In-Orbit Testing campaigns.

Having started in January 2014, the project includes the replacement of the antenna feed horn and all the equipment for receiving and transmitting the full commercial Ka-band. Acceptance testing has been completed and the antenna is ready for its first mission.

By updating the antenna, SANSA is able to offer clients the entire range within the Ka-band frequency, thus creating new possibilities for international business and partnerships.


Second Mars Mission supported by South Africa

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has been identified by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to provide satellite tracking, telemetry and command services to their first Mars operation – the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).


India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). If successful, India would be the fourth space agency to explore the Red Planet.  Image credit

India successfully launched the PSLV-C25 rocket carrying the MOM spacecraft at 11:08 CAT on 5 November 2013. At 12:53 CAT, SANSA's Hartebeesthoek (HBK) ground station acquired the satellite signal and is providing the craft with Transfer-orbit Support services (TOSS) shortly after injection. "The HBK station is ideally located to be the closest point to the satellite per pass," says Pandey Shyam, an ISRO scientist stationed at HBK for the TOSS duration. "The satellite is in its elliptical orbit, and several manoeuvres are planned before the final Mars injection manoeuvre which should take place around 30 November 2013," Shyam adds.

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