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A new ground station in South Africa to help NASA track flights to deep space

A new ground station in South Africa to help NASA track flights to deep space

Officials of the South African Space Agency announce the establishment of a new deep space exploration ground station, indicating that it is under construction and is being built in the semi-desert Karoo region in South Africa.

  • The site where the first deep space station will be built in Matisfontein – South Africa (Reuters)

A new ground station for blind space exploration is being built in the semi-desert Karoo region in South Africa, officials at the South African Space Agency said on Tuesday.

The station will enter service by 2025 to help track NASA’s missions to the moon and other important missions.

Through the Artemis program, which aims to have the first woman or non-white person on the moon by 2025, this month NASA is seeking to launch a next-generation spacecraft, after weeks of delays due to technical setbacks and bad weather.

“Next week, we should expect the launch of the first Artemis flight,” said Badri Younes, deputy assistant administrator and chief of NASA’s Communications and Astronautics Unit.

“We will not reach the stage of sending a third Artemis flight before 2025, and the third (flight) will carry astronauts to the moon, and … the first person to land on the moon (this time) will be a non-white woman,” he told Reuters.

“This will be one of three stations that will support communication with all astronauts on or near the Moon and provide viable services for our entire lunar-to-Mars program,” Yunus added, during a signing ceremony in the small village of Matisfontein, 237 km north of Cape Town.

Matisfontein, the third major site being developed globally, will become part of a network of other ground stations in the United States and Australia.

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Officials said the station, whose design includes an array of sensors including a three-story dish with a diameter of 20 meters, will help improve and increase coverage on missions critical to the moon, Mars and others.

The South African National Space Agency will construct, operate and maintain the station.

The location of the station, which is close to the main communications and transportation infrastructure, was chosen because of its geographical location, which enjoys clear skies and low radio interference.

It is worth noting that South Africa has allocated an initial amount of 70 million rand ($3.93 million) to build the infrastructure and communications needed to prepare the site as part of the government’s investment in building space infrastructure and a research base.

“NASA won’t come to South Africa if they don’t feel we have the capabilities to do the work in partnership with them,” said Phil Mguara, Director General of Science and Innovation in South Africa.