Space weather warning centre upgraded

April 23rd, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT

The South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) Space Weather Regional Warning Centre, located in Hermanus in the Western Cape, has recently been upgraded.

Unveiled by South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the facility is the only regional warning centre for Africa and integral to protecting satellites, the continent’s national power grids, communications and navigation systems from the harmful effects of space weather.

Space weather describes the processes and conditions in the Earth’s outer space environment which affect activities on Earth. This includes solar flares (radio waves, infra-red, light, ultraviolet and X-rays), coronal mass ejections and plasma streams.

“Extreme space weather storms are a risk that could endanger the economy, costing South Africa billions of rands if not mitigated effectively” said SANSA CEO, Dr Val Munsami. “Governments in several countries, including the USA and UK, have recently listed space weather on their National Risk Registers”.

Dr Val Munsami, Teboho Nxele, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Dr Rendani Nndanganeni, Mpho Tshisaphungo and Dr Tshimangadzo Matamba.

Dr Val Munsami, Teboho Nxele, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Dr Rendani Nndanganeni, Mpho Tshisaphungo and Dr Tshimangadzo Matamba.

“Space weather is a global phenomenon with regional impact,” said SANSA MD, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell. “Severe space weather storms can negatively impact numerous sectors and our increasingly interconnected and interdependent technological systems today can cause a cascade of operational failures. The defence, communications, navigation, aviation and energy sectors are especially vulnerable to the effects of space weather.”

Since its inception in 2010, SANSA has operated the centre under the auspices of the International Space Environment Service (ISES), which coordinates global space weather activities. The centre is mandated to develop South Africa’s space weather capabilities, providing government, industry and the public with a space weather operations system and improving the understanding and awareness of space weather in Africa.

The centre’s space weather information wall now consists of 15 high-definition 46” screens, each displaying live satellite images of the Sun in different wave-lengths and presenting real-time data from SANSA’s space monitoring instruments positioned across southern Africa, Antarctica and Marion and Gough Islands. The upgraded system provides the team with a platform to monitor the Sun and its activity in far greater detail for more accurate space weather forecasts, warnings and alerts, as well as environmental data on space weather conditions for use by governments and private-industry users in Africa.

The new facility will add to SANSA’s space weather service offerings, offer an improved understanding of the solar terrestrial environment, and enable it to further leverage the benefits of space science and technology for the African continent.

Contact Catherine Webster, SANSA, Tel 028 312-1196, cwebster@sansa.org.za