Pretoria, South Africa Thursday launched its space agency on what has been described as a historic day for the country.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and experts from the space agencies of other countries Thursday attended the launch of the South African Space Agency (SANSA).
South Africa now joins a select group of countries that boast having a space agency, the state-run BuaNews agency reported.
Outlining SANSA`s role, the minister said it will implement a national space programme and advise her on the subject.
It will have the responsibility of acquiring, assimilating and distributing space data to various state entities.
Pandor said the national space strategy will promote research in the areas of astronomy, earth observation, communications, navigation and space physics.
The strategy will foster international cooperation in space-related activities, and advance scientific, engineering and technological competencies through outreach programmes.
Emphasis would be placed on encouraging space science research and development, she added.
She said the space industry is a big business and went beyond just space travel. It is an industry with enormous potential future growth. Over the next five years, South Africa intends to develop a formal space programme.
"Our combined efforts at enhancing South Africa`s space capabilities will not only be of immense value to the scientific community in the southern African region.
"It will also assist in addressing the persistent challenges of health care provision, water resources, agricultural mapping, and urban planning and communications," she said.
She announced further plans aimed at strengthening the space sector, which included setting up a Centre of Competence in Optronics and Synthetic Aperture Radar.
Space science has contributed significantly in the sustainable development of the African continent and SANSA will help play a role in this regard, the minister added.
Chair of the SANSA board, Maurice Magugumela, said SANSA has ushered in a new era in the science and technology landscape in South Africa and the continent.
Pandor signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) relating to data access with the representatives of the Brazilian and Chinese governments.