Speaking at a space and industry dialogue business breakfast, the CEO of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), Dr. Sandile Malinga said that with its limited financial and human resources, the agency needs the industry’s support and there must be a collaboration to ensure that it can deliver on its mandate. The agency aims to co-ordinate and integrate national space science and technology programmes and conduct long-term planning and implementation of space related activities in South Africa, for the benefit of the citizens of South Africa (as outlined in the South African National Space Agency Act, 2008, Act No 36 of 2008).
There was an interesting discussion around the availability of the data that SANSA obtains from various satellite platforms. Malinga said that ideally it should be free to all but then government would have to increase its funding of the agency. There were several suggestions from the floor that all raw data should be available free for processing by industry and that there would only be a charge for processed data and imagery. Before the formation of SANSA, various government departments had contracts with various satellite data providers which was very expense. Since the formation of the agency these contacts have been centralised so it would make sense that SANSA should receive those funds.
Industry players raised the question of visibility of the agency. It was said that everyone in South Africa knows who NASA is but few people are aware that South Africa has its own space agency. One of the delegates said SANSA should put a billboard at Cape Town International Airport with the message “SANSA wishes you a safe flight, with our magnetic declamation updates we make sure the pilot gets to the right destination!” Malinga agreed but he also said that marketing is an expensive exercise for which there was a limited budget. He appealed to the industry and the media to help get SANSA’s message out to the public.
The planned Earth Observation Satellite, EOSAT-1 was not discussed. It seems that SANSA and DST are keeping a low profile on the project. However in a brief interview with Malinga, he said the EOSAT-1 project is on track and that launch is planned during the 2019 budget year. EOSAT-1 when launched will provide real-time environmental data.
Dr. Malanga in his concluding remarks said that the way forward in the South African space environment is public-private partnership. The dialogue must go on.