The Space Science Directorate of the South African National Space Agency (established in 2011) has emerged from the original Hermanus Magnetic Observatory which was first established in 1941. Since the first magnetic observatory was founded in Cape Town in 1841, the observation and study of geomagnetism has grown so that it is now part of a research program at SANSA Space Science involving research on the Earth's space environment, as well as the practical application of physics and space technology for the benefit of mankind.
South Africa is the only African country with a scientific base in Antarctica and is ideally located for the study of the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly – an area where aircraft, ships and satellites are exposed to increased radiation from space which leads to the interruption of, and damage to, communication systems.
SANSA leads the Space Science Programme and is a key player in the South African National Antarctic Programme with several on-going space science and space weather related projects in Antarctica, as well as Marion and Gough Island. The Space Science Directorate of SANSA is host to the only Space Weather Centre in Africa providing early warnings and forecasts on space weather activity, playing an important role in protecting satellite technology, communication and navigation systems.
Forming part of the worldwide network of magnetic observatories SANSA Space Science is responsible for research, infrastructure and data for monitoring the near-Earth space environment. The scope of activities include fundamental and applied space physics research, post-graduate student training, science advancement, space weather monitoring, and the provision of geomagnetic field-related services on a commercial and private basis.
The Directorate aims to promote awareness and interest in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) among the youth, educators, the general public and policy-makers through a successful Science Advancement Programme. The majority of the activities are hosted within the SANSA Science Centre and from the SANSA Space Lab, a state-of-the-art interactive mobile laboratory. The activities are specifically aimed at teachers and learners with an emphasis on practical learning programmes.SANSA Space Science also contributes to Human Capital Development by means of summer and winter schools, the supervision of MSc and PhD students, and teaching at partner universities. The Directorate aims to build the scarce skills and expertise required for the country's SET programme, ensuring that South Africa moves from a resource based economy to a successful knowledge base economy.