On 9 December, Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor officially launched the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the country’s National Space Strategy. We have seen both advantages and difficulties raised for the satellite communications and broadcasting sector by national space agencies in other countries, so this new agency bears watching. Minister Pandor included communications as one of the items the agency could focus upon when she said that “the information, products and services to be derived from the Space agency will be secured through developing and operating a suite of satellite borne and ground based platforms, including:”

  • Earth observation, [EESS]
  • Navigation and positioning,
  • Communications,
  • Space science and exploration.

Nevertheless, it seems that the Minister emphasised the EESS and science aspects with little other reference to satellite communications. She also noted that SANSA will focus on six themes, none of which included any communications aspects, other than tangential elements of “space operations,” which mainly means satellite mission control and telemetry, tracking and control. As part of this particular theme, the CSIR Satellite Applications Centre will migrate into SANSA as from 1 April 2011 (with one CSIR official also serving on SANSA’s initial board). The most detailed description we found of her speech was set forth in SANSA’s first newsletter, published on 9 December. (Even though SANSA’s operations were formally announced on 9 December, it had its first board meeting in July 2010). SANSA’s website also lists the six main themes – we notice that under space operations it includes “manage ground stations for international clients,” which could imply a certain measure of commercial service operation. SANSA will operate alongside a 15-strong South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA), appointed by Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies in October. SACSA is responsible for South African space-related interests, implementation of the country’s National Space Policy and compliance with international agreements, conventions and treaties under the Space Affairs Act 84 of 1993.