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SANSA Space Operations Basic Assessment

Date : 2019 – 2021 Author : Skye Clarke-Mcleod


Purpose and need for the Project 

On the 24th of July 2020, the Space Infrastructure Hub (SIH) was gazetted (No. 43547) as a Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) in accordance with the Infrastructure Development Act 23 of 2014.


As part of the SIH, The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) intends to develop a space observation facility in accordance with the SIP at two sites approximately 4km west of the town of Matjiesfontein in the Laingsburg Local Municipality, Central Karoo District Municipality, Western Cape. The proposed project will involve the construction and operation of radio antennae for tracking satellites in orbit. These antennas will range between 2.4m and 45m in height.


The Space Infrastructure Hub and associated scientific instruments and antennas are for deep space communication, which fulfils the roles of satellite navigation as they track satellites in orbit. This forms an integral part of space science and exploration as information and data will be collected to conduct in-depth research into the surrounding environment and in outer space.


The facility proposed at Matjiesfontein will provide crucial space science data to meet national and international obligations, raise the standard of South African research, and improve our understanding of the Earth’s middle and upper atmosphere while also generating an income for the South African economy.

The typical scientific infrastructure which is used for deep space navigation are shown in the example images. Similar infrastructure can be seen at SANSA’s Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory in Pretoria (head office). Images courtesy: the South African National Space Agency

Steps Involved and approach to the project

CES undertook a Basic Assessment (BA) as well as the Ecological (both faunal and botanical)  Impact assessment of the receiving environment, which was found to be in a near natural state with intact vegetation types.The site is located near a Provincial Heritage Site(historical town of Matjiesfontein) and the surrounding scenic routes and thus required minor amendments to the initial layout, so as to reduce visual impacts on the cultural landscape. Being located in a water scarce region, a general Authorisation was required for impacts on drainage lines and tributaries intercepted by road crossings.


After extensive public consultation and improvements to the proposal based on stakeholder feedback, the application and impact reports were submitted to DFFE for decision-making.


Additional studies which supported this application were a cultural heritage impact assessment, inclusive of a visual impact assessment in relation to the cultural landscape, as well as a risk assessment of the impacts on drainage lines, to support the submission of the water use license application.


The South African National Space Agency received their Environmental Authorisation and WULA at the onset of 2021 and is engaging with NASA to support their next space mission.