NASA adds SA to space ground station network

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The small town of Matjiesfontein in the Western Cape will be home to SA’s first deep space ground station.

This comes after Cabinet approved that the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) partner with the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to host the ground station in the country.

Ground stations may be located either on the surface of the Earth, or in its atmosphere. Earth stations communicate with spacecraft by transmitting and receiving radio waves in the super high frequency or extremely high frequency bands.

NASA already has an existing network of ground stations located in the US, Spain and Australia. The partnership with SANSA will see SA integrated into that network.

According to NASA, it’s three ground stations are located approximately 120-degrees apart on Earth and are there to ensure that any satellite in deep space is able to communicate with at least one station at all times.

In addition, the ground stations communicate with satellites in order to initiate course corrections, provide software updates and alter the way scientific observations are made.

In a statement, Cabinet says the station will support human spaceflight missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

“As the fourth site, it will complement the other three sites and provide improved coverage and redundancy for critical mission support. SANSA will operate, maintain and manage the station.

“The station will benefit South Africa in, amongst others, the development of scarce skills and the growth of the science, engineering, technology and innovation sector. It will also provide opportunities to feed the knowledge economy, and increase the national research output in space science and technology.”

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