Space Weather Cen­tre a boon to SA for all sea­sons

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WARDA MEYER

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.

warda.meyer@inl.co.za

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