Reusable rockets will reduce cost to space

  When a SpaceX Falcon rocket flew itself back to its Florida launch site last December, the feat was hailed as a key step in Elon Musk’s quest to develop an inexpensive, reliable reusable rocket. But that was only half the story.  On Friday 8 April a more challenging and potentially revolutionary step was accomplished […]

Reliable satellite data for essential African services

Africa can now rely on the services of a satellite constellation tailored for the continent to provide reliable data for a wide range of essential human activities and the protection of the environment. The constellation which combines the services of ten satellites with the capability of covering any part of the continent at least once […]

Another probe to solve the Red Planet’s mysteries

The first of two joint ESA–Roscosmos missions to Mars began on 14 March 2016 on a seven-month journey to the Red Planet, where it will address unsolved mysteries of the planet’s atmosphere that could indicate present-day geological – or even biological – activity. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing […]

James Webb telescope a successor to Hubble

  2018 will see another giant telescope venture into Space to study the solar system, enabling scientists understand more about its formation and how Earth became capable of supporting life. Named the James Webb Space Telescope, it will look across vast distances to find the earliest stars and galaxies and study the atmospheres of mysterious […]

Young SA women tackle STEM with satellites

  Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are today considered the area where most education systems make little impact. And yet STEM is one of the most important building blocks for young people to get into the mainstream of the economy. It is predicted that 80% of jobs require a STEM background; and only 10% […]

Space travel a step closer

  Recently the opportunity to take a trip into space became a lot closer when Richard Branson launched SpaceShipTwo  – the first vehicle to be manufactured by the Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s wholly-owned manufacturing arm, and the second vehicle of its design ever constructed. Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. Founded by Sir […]

First ground-based observations of sprites over South Africa

  The South African National Space Agency recently recorded the first images of sprites from Sutherland on 11 January 2016. Triggered by lightning, Sprites are optical gas discharges from the top of convective thunderstorm clouds at an altitude of 50 – 100 km. Despite being easily visible, nobody has ever reported seeing spites over Southern […]

Van Allen probes revolutionise view of radiation belts

  About 950 km from Earth’s surface is the first of two doughut-shaped electron swarms, known as the Van Allen belts, or the radiation belts. Understanding the shape and size of the belts, which can shrink and swell in response to incoming radiation from the sun, is crucial for protecting our technology in space. The […]

SALT helps to unveil a record-breaking cosmic blast

  A collaboration of telescopes, including a major contribution by the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland, Africa’s giant eye on the universe, has unveiled a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova, events which already rank amongst the mightiest outbursts in the universe. It was more than twice as […]

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