South Africa’s government has approved the country’s designation as a Regional Space Weather Centre for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The approval marks a significant milestone for the South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) Space Weather Project, which will provide space weather information in accordance with the adopted standard by ICAO for all aviation requirements.
South Africa was designated a Regional Space Weather Centre by ICAO in November 2018, and SANSA has been developing its capacity and laying infrastructure in place to ensure its readiness to serve the aviation sector, among others. The organization is in the process of upgrading its operational 24/7 space weather capabilities to meet ICAO’s deadline of October 2022.
Dr Val Munsami, SANSA CEO, said the cabinet memorandum ensures that the new Space Weather Centre being built by SANSA has the highest level of political backing in the country. “This underscores the importance of this initiative, nationally, regionally and internationally,” he said.
Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, managing director, SANSA, said the cabinet’s announcement comes at an opportune time when SANSA is best positioned to start engaging across government in terms of the impact from space weather events, and how this capability and expertise can assist to understand and mitigate the impacts.
“The tabling of the memo is significant in that it brings to the cabinet’s attention the important role that SANSA is playing as a space weather information service provider. It also highlights our capability and plans to extend that capability to all spheres of government which will allow us to engage further,” said McKinnell.
Cabinet has also granted SANSA permission to collaborate with the Pan-European Consortium for Aviation Space Weather User Service. This affords South Africa an opportunity to grow its science and engineering technology and innovation focus and puts the country on the map as a global player in space science. In addition, SANSA is well-positioned to ensure that South Africa contributes to the global space weather challenge.
SANSA now intends to host information sessions for various government departments and their entities to highlight the impacts of space weather on their business and the economy, and how SANSA can assist.