Matjiesfontein (MTJ), a rural town outside Cape Town, is home to the new deep space complex for the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), with a primary focus on deep space exploration. This site will function as an extension of the renowned Hartebeesthoek (HBK) facility, celebrated for its world-class services in telemetry, tracking, and command operations. MTJ will be equipped with sophisticated technology designed for communication with satellites, probes, rockets, and terrestrial planets.
When did it all start?
As early as 2014, SANSA and NASA began discussions about the potential for a deep space complex in South Africa. After identifying several possible sites, a feasibility study was carried out. The outcomes of the study pointed towards Matjiesfontein as the optimal location that fulfilled all the requirements for setting up a new ground station.
What makes MTJ special?
The MTJ site will form part of the new NASA Lunar Exploration Ground Segment (LEGS) network of three sites in the United States of America, South Africa, and Australia. As the third site, it will complement the other two sites and provide improved coverage and redundancy for critical mission support. “The LEGS mission is to provide direct-to-earth communication and navigation services for missions operating from 36,000 kilometres (km) in the GEO to cis Lunar and other orbits out to 2 million km.”
The MTJ site is poised to be a pivotal contributor to the growth of science, engineering, and technology skills in South Africa. As a hub for deep space exploration, this facility will provide a unique and enriching environment for individuals to hone their expertise in these critical fields. Skills development is particularly crucial in South Africa, as it not only empowers individuals to thrive in a rapidly evolving technological landscape but also fuels innovation and economic growth. This investment in skills development aligns with broader national goals, positioning South Africa at the forefront of scientific advancements and technological achievements.
The MTJ site stands as a strategic cornerstone in bolstering SANSA’s competitive edge within the global space industry. With over 60 years of invaluable experience in space operations, SANSA has cultivated a rich legacy that positions the agency for unparalleled success in deep space network operations. The establishment of the MTJ site is a testament to SANSA’s commitment to advancing the frontiers of space exploration. This cutting-edge facility not only amplifies SANSA’s capabilities but also solidifies its status as a leader in the field. MTJ site serves as a pivotal asset, propelling SANSA to the forefront of innovation and excellence in the dynamic landscape of the global space industry.
The establishment of power and communication connections for the ground station will also allow for the upgrade of the existing Matjiesfontein infrastructure, giving the town reliable power and communication networks.
We believe that an upgrade in infrastructure can encourage increased economic participation for this rural town. We also believe awareness about space activities can boost tourism in this town.
Partners and Stakeholders
SANSA Matjiesfontein is an initiative of SANSA, forged in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), and proudly supported by NASA. The entity is already in discussions with potential clients for its deep-space network services.