The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was established in 2010. Following a period of rapid growth and transition the agency has made significant advancements towards addressing its mandate of deriving greater value from space science and technology for the benefit of South African society.

Successful launch of Landsat 8

on . Posted in SANSA News

The long awaited Landsat 8 satellite was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA on Monday 11 February 2013 using the Atlas-V 401 rocket launch vehicle. Landsat 8 or the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) as it is currently known is a continuity mission in the series of Landsat satellites that was designed to succeed Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 missions.  The Landsat series of satellites have an unparalleled record of land imaging which dates back to 1972. Landsat's 40 year history is monitoring land, water and vegetation applications uniquely places the Landsat archive in a class of its own since it possesses an unrivalled continuous record of the earth's dynamics.

Landsat 8 is comprised of two instruments on-board the Operational Land Imager and the Thermal Infrared Sensor. The satellite possesses a panchromatic band with a spatial resolution of 15m, visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands with a spatial resolution of 30m and two thermal bands with a spatial resolution of 100m. Landsat 8 has a scene size of 185-km-cross-track-by-180-km-along-track. The Operational Land Imager has two new spectral bands, one designed to detect cirrus clouds and the second band designed for coastal zone measurements. The Thermal Infrared Sensor has two narrow spectral bands in the thermal region previously occupied by one wide spectral band on Landsat 4–7. The design specification for Landsat 8 will ensure a greater chance to acquire cloud-free scenes.

Landsat 8 was designed to serve a gamut of applications such as land use planning and monitoring, urban growth monitoring, disaster management, water resource monitoring, climate, carbon cycling and sequestration, ecosystems function and services, agricultural monitoring, hydrological cycle and other terrestrial processes. The South African community will also utilize Landsat 8 in resource management, geological mapping, vegetation studies, regional planning, mapping, and environmental change studies. Landsat 8 data will be freely available thanks to the United States Geological Surveys and NASA's free and open data policy. SANSA will be directly receiving Landsat 8 at its ground receiving station at Hartebeeshoek and will disseminate this data throughout the Southern African region.

Landsat 8 will widen SANSA's range of satellite products and will increase the scope for earth observation experts to develop operational remote sensing services of socio-economic benefit. LDCM (Landsat 8) will be declared for normal operation after successfully undergoing Post-Launch Assessment Review and the Operational Readiness Review.


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Ionospheric Monitoring in Africa Workshop

on . Posted in SANSA Space Science News

Bath workshopSANSA Space Science hosted the 2013 Ionospheric Monitoring in Africa Workshop, 24 – 25 January 2013.  The workshop brought together scientists from various European and African countries in an effort to highlight the current state of Africa's ground-based ionospheric monitoring network.

The ionosphere (a region of our atmosphere extending from an altitude of about 50 km to about 1000 km) affects lives in diverse ways, ranging from its usefulness in High Frequency (HF) radio propagation, to its weakening of radio signals that have to pass through it. The ionosphere affects modern technologies such as communications, navigation systems and surveillance systems.  In order to minimise these effects it is vital to gain an in-depth understanding of the ionosphere.

Scientists are currently in the process of mapping the ionosphere above the African region which will provide a number of benefits to its users.  The workshop addressed various challenges in developing the infrastructure required in putting together this map.

The map, in the form of a computer program, will show a multi-dimensional representation of the ionosphere for a given set of geophysical parameters. "We have now identified a number of gaps and areas where instruments exist but the data from which is not yet being shared. This data goes hand in hand with the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI) model and once made accessible will be extremely beneficial."  said Dr Patrick Sibanda of the Department of Physics in Zambia. By increasing general ionospheric knowledge above lesser known areas, use of the ionosphere can be greatly enhanced, and significant allowance can be made for the affects ionospheric behaviour has on radio signals.

In support of this project, the workshop was funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the General Studies Programme.  Dr Julian Rose from the University of Bath, UK noted the challenges faced in conducting research in Africa and said "Europe recognises the importance of this project and we are identifying areas across Africa in need of additional Global Positioning System receivers, to build a better picture of the ionosphere."


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