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Boost for SA’s space, satellite industry as new firm opens

Read time 3min 30sec

Swedish space technology company AAC Clyde Space has established a subsidiary in South Africa.

In a statement yesterday, the company announced it has founded AAC Space Africa, to capitalise on the rapidly-growing market for satellites and space services in Africa.

AAC Space Africa will design, build and deliver space missions to the continent from its Cape Town base in South Africa’s Western Cape Province.

The new subsidiary will also be the group's centre of competence for advanced radio communication.

South Africa is witnessing notable developments in the space and satellites industry.

Last year, ITWeb reported that the small town of Matjiesfontein in the Western Cape will be home to SA’s first deep space ground station.

This after Cabinet granted approval for the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) to partner with the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to host a ground station in the country.

SANSA was created to promote the use of space and strengthen cooperation in space-related activities, while fostering research in space science, advancing scientific engineering through developing human capital, and supporting industrial development in space technologies.

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.

South Africa’s satellite connectivity industry is also bracing for a shake-up amid reports that Elon Musk’s SpaceX has opened pre-orders for its Starlink satellite service in SA.

However, the satellite industry in SA has been thriving in the absence of Starlink, with organisations like Q-KON leading the charge.

African satellite pioneers

AAC Clyde Space notes its new company will be managed by Dr Robert Van Zyl as managing director and Francois Visser as technical director.

They bring more than 40 years of small satellite experience, having pioneered the African CubeSat industry through several missions, including the first CubeSat launched by the continent, it says. Their expertise spans all facets of new space technologies, with a special focus on communications.

The team will initially focus on radio communication systems, as well as sales and marketing. According to the firm, the team is expected to grow quickly in the coming year to meet demand from the African space economy, which is set to grow to $10 billion by 2024.

“The need for space services in Africa is growing rapidly as governments, companies and communities seek efficient ways to support development and build out crucial infrastructure,” says AAC Clyde Space CEO Luis Gomes.

“We see great potential for small satellites to provide timely, accurate and targeted data for sectors such as weather forecasting, ocean monitoring, agricultural planning and land management.”

Gomes points out that the ability to provide data from space and monitor key issues across the continent will help Africa develop at a far more rapid pace over the next decade.

“Adding local presence and expert knowledge to our existing commercial offering will put AAC in an excellent position to address these growing needs. We look forward to taking an active role in the South African space community and the wider market,” he says.

Setting the standard

AAC says it selected South Africa as the base for its new subsidiary AAC Space Africa, as the country has an established space industry, as well as a strong position in communication systems, with highly-skilled engineers and data scientists.

It notes AAC Space Africa will also be the centre of competence for advanced radio communication systems for the entire AAC group, becoming the worldwide supplier of advanced radio systems for AAC’s space missions.

AAC Clyde Space was previously active in the African market through its European companies' hubs, most recently by supporting Mauritius in its efforts to become a space nation and to track ocean currents with earth observation technologies.

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