SANSA's robust endeavours to strengthen the country's role in multinational space science research, this time specifically in upper-atmosphere studies, come to fruition with the unveiling of the Optical Space Research (OSR) Laboratory at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Sutherland on 6 April this year.
This state-of-the-art facility will be used solely for research and to host space monitoring projects with national and international partners.
"Space science research is complex and requires significant multinational collaboration. The unique capabilities of this facility will provide crucial space science data to meet national and international obligations, as well as raise the standard of South African research and supply information about unanswered scientific questions to enhance scientific development," says SANSA CEO, Dr Val Munsami. Aligned with SANSA's human capacity development imperative, the OSR Laboratory will also be used by space science students nationally and internationally for research projects.
SANSA's hosting agreement with the SAAO facilitated the construction of the OSR Laboratory in 2016. The unique location of the observatory in Sutherland, which enables optical and radio research of the atmosphere, is radio quiet and offers the optically dark, clear seeing conditions that makes it an ideal location for the laboratory.
SANSA has a partnership agreement with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), to host a space debris tracking station within the OSR Laboratory. The facility includes a space debris tracking telescope as part of SMARTnet™ (Small Aperture Robotic Telescope Network), a dedicated sensory network based on telescope systems. "Satellite safety and reliability depend on identifying threats, such as collisions, and using countermeasures to deal with hazardous situations," says Dr Hauke Fiedler, Team Leader of Space Situational Awareness at DLR.