Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, Managing Director of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), has met sponsored postgraduate students in the School of Chemistry and Physics to discuss issues around their proposed projects.

McKinnell was accompanied by SANSA Research Support Unit Manager, Dr Kessie Govender,  and the agency’s Finance and Business Manager, Ms Sylnita Pijoos.

A key focus at SANSA is the development of transferable skills to enhance an exciting and viable space industry for the future. 

During the past decade, SANSA Space Science has collaborated with UKZN on various research projects, including the South African physical sciences flagship project in Antarctica,  the HF Radar Project.

In 2007, SANSA and UKZN jointly appointed a space physicist, Dr Andrew Collier, to carry out various research projects. 

The number of students sponsored by SANSA to undertake their postgraduate studies in space physics has increased over the past few years.

To address the skills shortage the National Space Programme will experience in delivering on its objectives, SANSA has broadened the range of subjects for the 2013 academic year to include physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

The success of this initiative has resulted in approximately 50 percent of all SANSA Space Science bursaries being awarded to UKZN students for 2013. This is the highest SANSA bursary allocation to a South African university in 2013.

‘It is encouraging to see the interest shown by the UKZN students to undertake space science related projects, as well as the commitment that the UKZN administration has given to this programme,’ said McKinnell. ‘The UKZN Space Physics Programme is well known nationally and internationally with many great space physicists being developed from it.

‘In expanding the country’s space programme we need to be mindful of our history, and make use of our expertise. In doing so, we will without a doubt create an exciting space programme that will provide a useful service to the nation.’

SANSA and UKZN are in the process of finalising a Memorandum of Understanding, formalising their intention to continue to collaborate in mutually beneficial ways in the field of space science. McKinnell said: ‘Our collaboration with UKZN is important in creating world-class research, transferable skills and developing a knowledge based economy for South Africa.’

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