Understanding the South African Space Policy

This document aims to provide guidance to all South African space actors. All actors in private and public sectors in the space field. These orientations go through the support and promotion of scientific research, capacity building, innovation and industrial development. The purpose of this is to use the outer space for the purposes of economic growth, poverty reduction and the creation of growth for the country.

This law seeks to strategically regulate all space activities in South Africa. All private or public entities that are part of the space sector are subject to it. The Minister of the Department of Commerce and Industry (DTI) is mandated to determine the general policy of space affairs to be followed by the Republic (art. 2). It may determine policy after consultation with the South African Council for Outer Space Affairs, with the consent of other ministers responsible for law enforcement relating to space affairs. The South African Minister of Finance is included.

A variety of services and applications, such as communications, navigation, meteorology, natural resource management, environmental monitoring, and natural disaster management depend on space systems. During the last three decades, space technology has found an increasing application in everyday life, to the point of making space applications indispensable to the modern information society.

The public space sector in South Africa is made up of government departments and their agencies, as well as the National Space Agency. They all have independent administrations with their own policy frameworks, frameworks that serve to guide decisions on the continuation and funding of space activities. Due to South Africa’s growing dependence on space technology and its participation in international scientific activities related to space, there is a need for it to have a more coordinated and strategic approach to space activities as a whole.

Policy statement

As said above, South Africa has a variety of institutions and programs that play an important role in the scientific study, exploration and use of outer space. Scientific councils, national facilities, universities, government departments and industry, have extensive expertise in satellite applications and engineering, space science, and their supporting technologies. However, not all of these activities are carried out in a coordinated manner. They are managed by different administrations. This poses challenges for a coherent strategic direction.

In order to maximize the benefits of space science and technology for sustainable development, South Africa needs a guiding framework in the form of a policy, and a central institutional framework (an agency). This agency aims to rationalize spatial development. This will go through coordination and cooperative governance, but also through partnerships with other space nations in areas of shared interest.

Policy principles

The fundamental principle of the continuation of space activities in South Africa is the contribution to the economic growth and social development of the country. There are 6 main principles mentioned by the law:

1) South Africa is committed to utilizing outer space for peaceful purposes and the benefit of all humankind.

2) South Africa is committed to developing and maintaining a robust and appropriate set of space capabilities, services and products to support national priorities through co-ordination and co-operative governance.

3) South Africa is committed to being a responsible user of the space environment and will ensure that all public and private sector activities are conducted in accordance with national legislation and appropriate international best practices, in addition to relevant international treaties.

4) South Africa is committed to promoting research and development in space science and technology.

5) South Africa is committed to fostering the development of the domestic industry towards greater levels of national self-sufficiency and international competitiveness in space technology, and its applications through utilizing domestic commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum extent possible.

6) South Africa is committed to co-operation with strategic nations in mutually beneficial and peaceful uses of outer space, with a focus on extending the benefits of space technology to the African continent through the pursuit of co-operative activities with African countries“.

Policy objectives

The objectives of this policy are as follows:

Improve co-ordination throughout the South African space arena to maximize the benefits of current and planned space activities, avoid or minimize duplication of resources and efforts, and organize existing initiatives, programs and institutions into a coherent network for all providers and users of space systems

Promote capacity-building initiatives, both as a means towards effective participation in the space arena, as well as to develop capacity in space science and technology, and science and technology in general.

Facilitate the provision of appropriate and adequate space capabilities to support South Africa’s domestic and foreign policy objectives.

Foster a robust science and technology base in research institutions and the higher education sector.

Promote the creation and implementation of a supportive regulatory environment to facilitate industrial participation in the space arena, in accordance with domestic law and South Africa’s foreign policy objectives and international obligations.

Promote the development of an appropriate and competitive domestic commercial space sector in order to provide the industrial base to meet the nation’s needs for space technology.

Promote improved co-operation with other nations in the mutually beneficial peaceful uses of outer space.

Promote greater awareness and appreciation, at all levels of South African society, of the relevance and benefits of space science and technology“.

General implementation Guidelines

Cooperative governance (art. 7.1)

The lead department for policy and regulatory aspects of space activities is DTI, supported by the South African Council for Outer Space Affairs, and multilateral agreements. DTI is also responsible for the development of an industrial space framework to guide industrial development to enable South African industry to thrive. Finally, the DTI liaises with other government departments responsible for administering acts relating to space activities, services and products.

The lead department for the implementation of the national space program is the DST (Department of Science and Technology). It is in this department that the national space agency resides. The Ministry of Communication takes the lead in matters relating to the communication of the national space program and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports and facilitates international cooperation activities related to space.

Finally, the national treasury plays a key role in allocating financial resources for the implementation of space policy by the various departments. Long-term strategic development requires a significant commitment supported by substantial financial resources.

To facilitate the improvement of coordination governance and cooperation, two key points are mentioned (arts. 7.1.1 and 7.1.2):

1) Increase Intra-Government and Inter-Agency Cooperation;

2) Optimize the Use of Resources.

Developing Adequate Space Capabilities (art. 7.2)

It is determined by government requirements in scientific, technical and industrial fields. The strategic analysis of national imperatives makes it possible to draw future requirements as defined in article 7.2.1.1:

1) Manufacturing Capability;

2) Economic Enabling of Space Technology;

3) Space Science and Technology Research Capability;

4) Build Human Capital.

Strengthening the Space Science and Technology Base (art. 7.3)

To support South African space capabilities, a science and technology base is essential. Research and development activities in the field constitute a cornerstone on which the national space program is based. In particular, publicly funded research and development activities support further knowledge creation, as well as new and improved space capabilities.

The existing capacities of scientific councils, national research facilities must be used to the maximum within the framework of the national space program. The strength of the system is the academic research community. Research institutes and tertiary level institutions ensure students’ exposure to space science and technology. This aims to help build the capacity of this policy.

Developing and Fostering National Space Infrastructure (art. 7.4)

For the development of the economy, a modern infrastructure is essential. It is therefore planned to develop and promote an appropriate infrastructure in South Africa. The country already has an infrastructure for ground segment operations of space systems and several facilities for assembly, testing and integration of satellites. The country also has facilities to support flight test and space launch activities. The law intends to encourage major investments to be made in this area.

Promoting a Domestic Space Industry (art. 7.5)

For South Africa to develop and maintain appropriate space capabilities, a robust space industry is essential. This goes through several key points:

1) Development of an Industrial Framework;

2) Building Capacity in the Domestic Industry;

3) Creating the Right Regulatory Environment for National Space Activities;

4) Managing Innovation and Technology Transfer to and from the Space Sector;

5) Promoting the Competitiveness of the Industry.

Promoting Enhanced Space Awareness at all Levels (art. 7.6)

Broad public support for a publicly funded South African space program is based on an appreciation and understanding of the benefits of space science and technology at all levels. The Outer Space Affairs Law mandates the Outer Space Council to promote space awareness and provide the public with appropriate information on its activities. For this reason, the Outer Space Council, government departments and their agencies undertaking activities in space science and technology should work in a sustained and integrated effort to communicate to all levels of society how public resources are used by the space sector for the public good. Private sector participants in publicly funded space activities should align a component of their activities in support of this goal. All stakeholders can achieve this maximum collective impact by jointly participating in nationally or internationally organized reflection periods dedicated to space science and technology.

Enhancing International Cooperation (art. 7.7)

To strengthen South Africa’s strength in space technologies and applications, strategic partnerships with developed countries and other emerging space nations are welcome. In particular, international cooperation will be pursued in accordance with the strategic foreign policy objectives of strengthening the African agenda, South-South cooperation, North-South cooperation and global governance. The priority of foreign policy is cooperation with and between African countries.

Areas of international cooperation include space science and exploration, Earth observation, communications and positioning, synchronization and navigation. These areas of cooperation will, as a first step, be pursued through existing bilateral cooperation agreements, which include space science and technology in their scope, as well as potential new agreements yet to be negotiated with other countries. South Africa intends to actively participate in regional and global multilateral forums for the peaceful uses of outer space.

Financial Implications (art 7.8)

As has not been done in the past, the law encourages the consideration of space applications that offer broad societal benefits as part of the public interest, and of which to be supported by public investors. “Once the momentum is established, public sector investors in space infrastructure and capacity will create the conditions necessary for the development of private sector space activities. South African government departments and public institutions, as key users of space systems, should therefore support South African efforts, not only with financial resources, but also by setting a clear direction as the country must follow in the future. One possibility to consider could be the cross-subsidization of other sectors, the latter perhaps in a better position to attract private investment, through initiatives such as space tourism“.