South Africa’s new ground station to help Nasa track space flights

April H

A new deep space ground station being built in South Africa’s semi-desert Karoo Region will come online by 2025 to help track history making NASA missions to the moon and beyond.

Through its ARTEMIS programme, which aims to land the first woman or black person on the moon by 2025, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is targeting the month of November for an inaugural launch of its next generation rocket ship, delayed for weeks by technical setbacks and bad weather.

Matjiesfontein, which is only the third primary site being developed globally, will become part of a network of other ground stations in the United States and Australia.

Designed with an array of antennae, including a three storey, 20 metre (22 yard) diameter dish being procured by NASA, the station will help improve coverage and redundancy for critical mission support to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) will establish, operate and maintain the station. South Africa has committed an initial 70 million rand ($3.93 million) to build the infrastructure and communications needed to ready the site, part of the government’s investment in building its space infrastructure and research base.