SANSA is host to the only Space Weather Regional Warning Centre in Africa, which operates as part of the International Space Environment Service (ISES). SANSA’s Space Weather Centre provides an important service to the nation by monitoring the Sun and its activity, and by providing space weather forecasts, warnings, alerts, and environmental data on space weather conditions.
Space weather products and services are required primarily for communication and navigation systems in the defence, aeronautics, navigation and communication sectors. The Space Weather Centre offers products and services to both the general public and clients.
SANSA operates a magnetically clean environment within its facility at Hermanus. The facility has operated as a magnetic observatory since 1940.
SANSA’s facilities in Hermanus are equipped to characterise and calibrate magnetic sensors, or identify the magnetic signature of dynamic platforms such as satellites and UAVs prior to sensor integration. With over 80 years’ experience in quality magnetic information for research, applications, products and services, SANSA is internationally recognised as a world-class facility for magnetic technology and applications.
A magnetically clean environment can only be achieved in locations away from the typical magnetic disturbances found in cities, such as DC (direct current) electrical railway lines, and in an area where no large magnetic gradients occur due to magnetised rock formations below the surface. The construction of buildings within a magnetic observatory must be non-magnetic in nature, and the type of activity conducted within the observatory requires an understanding of the impact on the environment.
SANSA operates the below state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure at the Hermanus facility, situated within a 16 ha buffer area against DC and low-frequency magnetic disturbances:
In addition, experts at the facility have the geomagnetic expertise needed to derive accurate baseline measurements, crucial for providing a magnetic baseline on which most applications can be built. The facility also develops bi-annual geomagnetic field maps that contribute towards navigation and positioning applications within Africa.
SANSA is host to the only large tri-axial Helmholtz Coil system in Africa, which is available to clients and external institutions. The coil system can be used to create or cancel any geomagnetic field, and is controlled to cancel the local geomagnetic field in real time. This system is used to evaluate and calibrate various magnetic sensors and magnetic systems. The system has a 2.5 m side length; fields of up to 100 000 nT can be generated in three axes at a resolution of about 3 nT; and the homogeneous area in the centre of the coil system, where the uniformity is 0.01%, is an oval form with a length of approximately 25 cm.
SANSA exposes devices such as satellite components to extreme heat (70 degrees Celsius) and extreme cold (minus 45 degrees Celsius) to stimulate conditions that devices are exposed to in space. This is essential in order to test satellite components for their journey in space. SANSA is the leader in non-magnetic temperature evaluations of satellite components in southern Africa.
SANSA operates a non-magnetic screening chamber to determine electronic offsets of magnetometers. The screening chamber provides magnetic screening of 20 000 x in the radial direction and 2 000 x in the longitudinal direction.
Magnetic reference directions and deviations from true North in southern Africa are measured at SANSA’s Absolute House. These observations are used to calibrate continuous electronic magnetic field measurements, and any variation in electronic instruments is compensated for absolute magnetic measurements taken in the Absolute House. These differences are used in a database of magnetic field changes to allow accurate calibration of compasses and magnetometers for navigation.
The SQUID forms part of a global network of SQUID sensors to measure and predict adverse space weather and other magnetic phenomena, specifically focussing on the magnetic signatures of seismic precursors. The first node of this network is a Low Temperature SQUID which has been operating for the past 10 years from a low-noise underground laboratory in France at Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit (LSBB).
The two-axis High Temperature SQUID is located at SANSA in Hermanus in a specialised non-magnetic building located in a magnetically quiet environment that adheres to Magnetic Observatory standards. The SQUID magnetometer consists of one horizontal sensor and one vertical sensor; both are M2700 High-Tc dc SQUID sensors from StarCryo, and are operated completely unshielded in the geomagnetic field. The SANSA SQUID magnetometer is inserted into a non-magnetic dewar with liquid Nitrogen and cooled to the operating temperature of 77 Kelvin.
SANSA promotes awareness and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) among learners, educators, the general public and policy-makers through a long-standing and successful Science Engagement Programme. Most 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 educators and learners with an emphasis on practical learning programmes.
If you would like to find out more about the SANSA facility in Hermanus please join the team for a fascinating tour of the Space Agency. The tour is free of charge and takes place every Wednesday from 11:00 – 12:00.
Hermanus, South Africa
SANSA Space Science: 028 312 1196
Hartebeesthoek, South Africa
SANSA Space Operations: 012 334 5000
Farm No 502 JQ
Pretoria, South Africa
SANSA Head Office: 012 844 0500
Mark Shuttleworth Street