The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) reached an important milestone for its space weather project after cabinet approved and welcomed the designation of South Africa as a regional space weather centre for the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) during its meeting on 4 August 2021.
South Africa, through SANSA, has been designated to provide space weather information, in accordance with the adopted standard by ICAO for all aviation requirements. The announcement of South Africa’s designation was made in November 2018, and SANSA has been developing its capacity and putting infrastructure in place to ensure readiness to serve the aviation and other sectors. To this end, SANSA is making steady progress on upgrading its current limited capacity to an operational 24/7 space weather capability to meet ICAO’s deadline of October 2022.
SANSA CEO Dr Val Munsami said the cabinet memorandum ensures that the new space weather centre being built by SANSA, with the support of the DSI, has the highest level of political backing in the country. "This underscores the importance of this initiative - nationally, regionally and internationally."
SANSA MD Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, said cabinet’s announcement comes at an opportune time when SANSA is best positioned to start engaging across government in terms of the impact from space weather events, and how this capability and expertise can assist to understand and mitigate the impacts.
“The tabling of the memo is significant in that it brings to cabinet’s attention the important role that SANSA is playing as a space weather information service provider. It also highlights our capability and plans to extend that capability to all spheres of government which will allow us to engage further,” said McKinnell.
Cabinet has also granted SANSA permission to collaborate with the Pan-European Consortium for Aviation Space Weather User Service. This affords South Africa an opportunity to grow its science and engineering technology and innovation focus and puts the country on the map as a global player in space science. In addition, SANSA is well-positioned to ensure that South Africa contributes to the global space weather challenge.
SANSA now intends to host information sessions for various government departments and their entities to highlight the impacts of space weather on their business and the economy, and how SANSA can assist.