Reaching for the Stars in South Africa

Posted by Luke Forgerson
August 8, 2012
Deputy Assistant Secretary Rose With U.S. Delegation in South Africa

The United States is leading the way in preserving space for the benefit of all nations. International cooperation and collaboration in space, particularly with established and emerging space-faring nations, is a priority for the Department of State. By working together with space-faring nations to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space, we can preserve the use of space for future generations.

We accompanied Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Defense Policy Frank Rose on his recent trip to South Africa for the first ever U.S.-South Africa Space Security Dialogue. This Dialogue was an important opportunity to exchange viewpoints on initiatives to improve the long term sustainability of the space environment, such as an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

While in South Africa, the U.S. delegation visited many South African space facilities including the Overberg Testing Range, established in the 1980s to provide a strategic capability for the launching of satellites. We also visited the Institute for Satellite and Software Applications where we saw the facilities and machinery used to test satellites before they go into orbit, including a giant vacuum chamber and clean room facilities. In addition, we visited the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Facility where a prototype dish for the Square Kilometer Array Project is being designed. The Square Kilometer Array, to be jointly hosted by South Africa and Australia, will be the largest radio telescope in the world and will be able to probe to the edges of our universe.

While visiting the South African National Space Agency's (SANSA) Space Operations Center, we toured ground station facilities and learned about South Africa's efforts to distribute earth observation data to support policy making, resource management, economic growth, and sustainable development. At SANSA's Space Science facility, officials described the role that SANSA plays in the worldwide network of magnetic observatories, which monitor and model variations of the Earth's magnetic field. SANSA places a high emphasis on connecting with and educating students, and we were delighted that a coinciding visit by elementary students provided an opportunity for Deputy Assistant Secretary Rose to speak with these students about space and encourage them to continue their interest in space studies. They definitely enjoyed Deputy Assistant Secretary Rose's humor and inspiration, and sharing the enthusiasm of these young students was a highlight of our trip.

We were also thrilled to meet with a number of students pursuing space-related post-graduate degrees when we visited the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. After a University-hosted discussion that included industry officials, academics, engineers, and representatives from non-governmental organizations, the students shared with us their space engineering projects, including a microsatellite that the University hopes to launch in the near future.

We were highly impressed with the emphasis South Africa is placing on space education-- a central tenet of the country's National Space Policy. It was clear from our visit that South Africa is emerging as a future leader in space, and actively inspiring its younger generations to dream big and reach for the stars.

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