Space Weather Centre a boon to SA for all seasons
THE NEWLY OPENED Space Weather Centre in Hermanus will make South Africa a world leader in this field.
Opening the centre, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said it was an additional landmark in the country’s attempts to strengthen the space sector with a view to using the benefits of space science and technology for socio-economic growth and sustainable development.
The opening follows hot on the heels of the launch of the South African National Space Agency on Thursday, which forms part of the first phase in a plan to develop a formal space programme.
The government hopes such a programme will boost the country’s economy and its global competitiveness.
Pandor said space science and technology was one of five key focus areas adopted by the department in 2008.
“The field of space science and technology is one in which a number of gover nment departments have an interest. We know the strengths of the local space industry. We know that we need to improve our capacity.”
The minister said the centre would provide essential information for global space science and technology, as well as forecasts and predictions to protect the country’s growing and future satellite industry.
“More specifically, it will provide a service to the Earth observation, communications, navigation, defence and engineering sectors.”
The Space Weather Centre has been constructed within the reception area of the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, part of the National Research Foundation.
“It forms part of a worldwide network of observatories and/or data centres of the earth’s geomagnetic field, ionosphere, magnetosphere and lightning monitoring,” said Dr Lee-Ann McKinnell, acting managing director of the magnetic observatory.
The Space Weather Centre includes a display of 10 LCD monitors that constantly monitor space.
Dr McKinnell said the centre would play a crucial role in the monitoring of conditions over Africa.
She said with the establishment of the South African National Space Agency and the launch of the national space strategy, it was imperative that South Africa had the ability to provide a good understanding and knowledge of the hostile space environment.
“The design of the centre incorporates a state-of-the-art server room, which not only provides the capacity to monitor space weather 24 hours a day, but additional capacity to meet other operational needs of the observatory.”
The observatory has been measuring the Earth’s magnetic field since 1932, and has been located in Hermanus since 1940.