Space Bill reaches Parliament

Johannesburg, 07 May 2008

The Department of Science and Technology has introduced the SA National Space Agency Bill into the National Assembly, following its approval by Cabinet, in December. The Bill was, however, only scheduled for introduction in July.

Once enacted, the draft law will create the SA National Space Agency (Sansa), a public entity that will co-ordinate and integrate national space science and technology programmes. It will also conduct long-term planning for and implementation of space-related activities in SA.

<B>Outlining the SA National Space Agency</B>

Objectives of the agency
* Promote the peaceful use of space.
* Support the creation of an environment conducive to industrial development in space technology.
* Foster research in astronomy, earth observation, communications, navigation and space physics.
* Advance scientific, engineering and technological competencies and capabilities through human capital development and outreach programmes.
* Foster international co-operation in space-related activities.
Functions of the agency
* Implement any space programme in line with the policy determined in terms of the Space Affairs Act.
* Advise the minister on the development of national space science and technology strategies and programmes.
* Implement any national space science and technology strategy.
* Acquire, assimilate and disseminate space satellite data for any organ of state.

The head note of the Bill says the draft law will promote the use of space and co-operation in space-related activities, foster research in astronomy, advance scientific engineering through human capital, and support the creation of an environment conducive to industrial development in space technologies within the framework of national government policy.

In March last year, science and technology minister Mosibudi Mangena told a satellite conference that Sansa was a priority and mooted that it might be established by November. This later slipped to March this year. With the Bill only now coming before the lawmaker, it is likely the agency will only receive initial funding in next year's budget. This means the organisation will only be able to start operating from 1 April 2009 - the start of the state's financial year.

Some of the projects Sansa would coordinate include the 1.5 billion euro Square Kilometre Array, the SA Large Telescope, a mooted new telescope at Matjiesfontein, and the belated launch of SA's second indigenous satellite, Sumbandilasat.

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