SA's National Space Policy takes to the skies

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pretoria - While South Africa's research into space technology and travel was uncoordinated in the past, the South African National Space Policy, launched Friday, will give direction to the country's space agenda.

"Space and satellite technology is used in every day life in online banking, cell phones, General Position Satellites (GPS) to help us get around and to watch international sporting events.

"Outer space is leading scientific research, research into climate change and communication technologies.

"We will be using space technology for peaceful means for the prosperity of mankind," Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said, speaking at the launch of the country's space policy.

South Africa has been involved in various space programmes for over 50 years, but it was in an uncoordinated and static manner, the minister said, which, therefore, prompted the need for a unified and coordinated space policy.

The Space Affairs Act mandates the minister of trade and industry to draft a space policy to guide the country, the minister highlighted, explaining that the benefits of space technology to the country and Africa is indispensable.

Tele-Health and Tele-Education, which utilises satellite technologies, as well as disaster management can be beefed up through satellite technology, Mr Mpahlwa said.

A space policy and programme would help modernise South Africa and could significantly bridge the socio-economic disparity in society, he said.

In the implementation of South Africa's space agenda, the country will promote domestic industrialisation in order to maximise benefit to local companies, he said, adding that leasing skills and goods from international companies will be discouraged.

South Africa's space agenda creates the opportunity to better co-operation with nations interested in the peaceful expansion of the benefits of space technology, and could carry benefits for the continent.

The space agenda will improve and further South-South relations with Brazil, India and China.

Acting Deputy Director General at the department, Sipho Zokode said: "The space policies paper was published in July 2007. Cabinet approved it on 3 December 2008.

"We expect to have an implementation plan by the end of March 2009," Mr Zikode said.