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.

A new IOT antenna has great significance for South Africa

On Friday 4 October 2013, SANSA hosted learners, members of the media and other dignitaries at its Hartebeeshoek facilities. This was to kick off the World Space Week events amidst the space fever that has hit our country. This is part of the 14th annual "World Space Week" which runs from 4 October to 10 October, both are key dates in space history.

The Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, while the Outer Space Treaty, which serves as the foundation of international space law, came into effect on 10 October 1967.

Space may seem a distant reality, but we only have to look around us to see the benefits it has brought to our daily lives. Images from space are now commonly used in plenty of sectors such as weather forecast, agriculture (smart farming), urban planning, monitoring de-forestation or supporting crisis management in case of flooding or large forest fires.

Space also creates unique opportunities to boost the economic performance of our continent. For one, it drives innovation. We can transfer technology from the space sector and create smart technologies and smart production. Spin-offs create further commercial uses which contribute to industrial growth.

 (L to R) Dr Sandile Malinga, Dr Phil Mjwara, Dr Woodrow Whitlow and Mr Raoul Hodges inaugurating the new antenna

Looking to capture more of the Space market

This World Space Week, an initiative by the United Nations to acknowledge the strides made by humanity in space and the impacts of these on our lives, is celebrated around the world from 4-10 October. The theme for 2013 is 'Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth'.


As part of the activities in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology, the Agency is today inaugurating the latest addition to the growing number of technologically advanced antennae which will provide a greater advantage and opportunity for managing the increasing demand for high quality space operations products and services.

"The new antennae facility consists of a new 10m Ku-DBS band antenna and an equipment room, outfitted with IOT equipment and infrastructure to assist clients to successfully commission new satellites thus contributing to our economy while positioning the country among reliable space nations around the world, "said Raoul Hodges, MD SANSA Space Operations.

Support Services to NASA’s – LADEE mission

ladee-spacecraft-moon-illustrationImage Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the LADEE spacecraft on a Minotaur V vehicle during a five-day launch period that started on September 6, 2013. The LADEE mission is divided into mission phases: Launch, Ascent, Activation and Checkout, Phasing Orbits, Lunar Orbit Insertion, Commissioning, Science, and Decommissioning.

South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has been supporting the mission as of the launch date. The SANSA Space Operations directorate was contracted by the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) to support what promises to be NASA grand mission to the moon. "Our facilities, the technical knowledge and our team's years of expertise in supporting missions of such magnitude are what attracted NASA to us. We also have a 12 metre antenna that's much bigger than the ones usually used as the size of the antenna creates more gain and reduces the risk of the mission. Our location in the Southern Hemisphere also plays in our favour on this mission," explains Tiaan Strydom, Business Development Manager at SANSA Space Operations.

Botswana exploring space science and technology collaborations with South Africa

BotswanaRepresentatives from the Botswana government and educational institutes recently undertook a tour of South Africa's key organisations in the fields of space, science and technology. They met with SANSA to understand the Agency's programmes and opportunities for collaboration at the end of July through coordination by both countries Departments of Science and Technology.

In 2005, South Africa and Botswana had signed a Bilateral Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation. In so doing, they demonstrated the important role each government placed on science and technology.

Currently, scientists from both countries are working together in various initiatives across different fields. The visit to SANSA mainly focused on areas of Earth observation and space science. The stakeholder delegation was led by Sikhonzile Sikhosana, Assistant Director, African Cooperation at the South African Department of Science and Technology.

Dr Jane Olwoch, SANSA Earth Observation's Managing Director, provided an overview of the Agency's vision and future direction. "SANSA joined all the other international space agencies to work together and see how collaboratively we can use space access and technology for the benefits of society and economic economic development, she adds.

Her words are echoing Southern African Development Community (SADC) recognition of the crucial role of science and technology in poverty reduction. In this context, she further elaborated that emphasis must be put on projects that will benefit the two SADC country's communities in ways that are meaningful to them. She succinctly pointed out that people will not fully appreciate the usefulness of science if it cannot address the problems they are grappling with in their day-to-day existence.

Areas of collaboration with Botswana such as data sharing, capacity building activities and bilateral action relating to Earth observation were highlighted.
Space research and technology require partnership in order to succeed. Dr Olwoch acknowledged the Botswana delegation for meeting with SANSA, saying "it is an important step in building the relationship in exploring future collaborations."

The two countries are richly endowed with natural and human resources. Together they must find ways in which they can develop their strengths, and use them as a basis for creating a better future for their citizens. Science and technology offer numerous opportunities to achieve this.

Sharing the history of SANSA's Hartebeesthoek facilities was Eugene Avenant, Chief Engineer at Space Operations. He says "since South Africa re-entered the international community, we have established partnerships across the world again and began offering telemetry, track and command services to major clients," SANSA Space Operations operates and maintains more than 20 antennas and a number of ground stations at its facility. It is this type of world class service and professionalism that continues to make SANSA an ideal partner for many international clients.

This engagement forms the exploratory phase of a three year commitment between the stakeholders to identify and implement collaborative initiatives to the benefit of both countries.



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