In the presence of France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, and South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu, Jean-Pascal Le Franc, Centre national d’etudes spatiales (CNES) Director of Planning, International Relations, and Quality, and Valanathan Munsami, CEO of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), signed an agreement outlining future space cooperation between France and South Africa on 28 February 2019 in Pretoria.
Building on CNES’s longstanding presence in South Africa, with a French satellite and launcher ground station based in Hartebeesthoek, this founding agreement lays the basis for future joint space projects between the two countries. Targeted areas of cooperation include space operations, space science, Earth observation, telecommunications, applications, and research and technology. The two agencies will also coordinate on international regulatory matters. Initial discussions centred around the Space Climate Observatory (SCO), the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, and the training of engineers.
This agreement makes South Africa one of CNES’s key partners on the African continent. Supporting the development of space technology within the country will serve to consolidate both French industry and France’s positioning among Pan-African space players.
South Africa is fostering the development of its space sector and has already launched three micro- and nanosatellites. Pretoria has financed several Earth observation projects, including the development of a 350 kg satellite and a future constellation of ocean-monitoring nanosatellites. The production of a second constellation dedicated to forest fire detection is now underway.
In 2013, the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) and its Cape Town branch at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), were commissioned to produce South Africa’s first ever CubeSat. SANSA went on to task F’SATI with the development of its future constellation of nanosatellites dedicated to monitoring South Africa’s oceans, as part of a state initiative to unlock the country’s ocean economy (Operation Phakisa).
Following the signature, Jean-Pascal Le Franc said: “CNES is proud and honoured that SANSA is partnering with it in this wide-ranging cooperation, which builds on the already numerous and longstanding links between our two agencies, not least for space operations. SANSA plays a vital role in the development of space activities, not only within South Africa but across the African continent. Pursuing its policy of active cooperation with the new space powers, CNES is delighted to consolidate its presence in Africa—a region of the world where the priorities of French space policy, especially tackling climate change, take on an extra dimension.”