Unabridged statement: Minister of Science & Technology launches the Space Weather Centre


Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, MP, at the launch of the Space Weather Centre, Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, 10 December 2010

Ms Nicolette Botha-Guthrie, Executive Mayor of Overstrand;

Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, CEO of National Research Foundation;

Mr Maurice Magugumela, Chair of the South African National Space Agency Board;

Dr Sandile Malinga, Caretaker CEO of SANSA;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen.

I’m pleased to be addressing you on this special occasion, which follows hard on the heels of the launch of the South African National Space Agency yesterday.

The opening of the Space Weather Centre here today is an additional landmark in our attempts to strengthen the space sector, with a view to leveraging the benefits of space science and technology for socio-economic growth and sustainable development.

The Department of Science and Technology has chosen certain areas of scientific endeavour on which to focus. Space science and technology is one of five key focus areas we adopted in 2008.

The field of space science and technology is one in which a number of government departments have an interest.

We know the strengths of the local space industry.

We know that we need to improve our capacity.

We want to improve South Africa’s global position in the space sector.

We drafted a policy and then a strategy, with input from a number of government departments, in order to guide our efforts in this direction.

Then, on 15 December 2008, the South African National Space Agency Bill was passed, and since then the DST has moved full speed towards the establishment of the National Space Agency. Our medium-term goal is for our country to have a fully operational space programme within the next five years, and to be globally positioned within 10 years.

There is another important and connected strategy – the South African Earth Observation Strategy (SAEOS). SAEOS coordinates the collection, processing and dissemination of Earth observation data so that they can be fully used to support policy, decision-making, economic growth and sustainable development in South Africa.

Both the National Space Strategy and SAEOS complement each other and will help many government departments fulfill their mandates.

The launch of the Space Weather Centre here today speaks directly to our space science and technology ‘grand challenge’. This Centre will contribute essential information for global space science and technology, as well as forecasts and predictions to protect our growing and future satellite industry. More specifically, it will provide a service to the Earth observation, communications, navigation, defence and engineering sectors.

In addition to this, the Space Weather Centre will contribute towards other grand challenges, such as the Energy Security grand challenge, through its potential to develop a skills base and stimulate interest and desire among young people to take part in science and technology.

This project will position our country as a leader in Space Weather for the African continent, allowing for the development of projects that will create parallel initiatives between different African countries, and provide us with a leading focus area for joint collaborations.

There is already a possible Space Weather satellite collaboration between India, Brazil and South Africa, which will proceed in the context of the IBSA Space Weather satellite.

We hope that, in fulfilling its mandate, the Space Weather Centre, like the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, will continue to provide a vital service to learners, educators, academia, industry, policy makers and the general public. We would naturally be particularity pleased if this crucial service could be biased in favour of the African continent.

Ladies and gentlemen, our combined efforts at enhancing South Africa’s space capabilities will be of immense value to the advancement of science in our country and our continent.

It is my pleasure to declare the Space Weather Centre open.

I thank you.