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Cablegate: South Africa - Nasa Visit Evaluates South Africa's

Published: Fri 4 Mar 2005 09:35 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 000942
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
STATE FOR OES/PCI/SHAW, OES/STC/ROTTIER, OES/SAT
STATE ALSO FOR AF/S, AF/EPS
EUCOM FOR J5
OSD FOR AFRICA
MADRID FOR NASA/MWATKINS
NASA WASHDC FOR KRIEGER, CARROLL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KSCA SENV ECON PREL TSPL SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICA - NASA VISIT EVALUATES SOUTH AFRICA'S
POTENTIAL TO HOST DEEP SPACE NETWORK ARRAY SITE
Ref: A) Johannesburg 116; B) State 15423
Sensitive but unclassified, protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) Summary. A six-member delegation from National
Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters and
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a productive visit to
South Africa January 28 through February 8. The group,
accompanied by Embassy Defense Attache, made site visits and
held technical discussions on a South African-based tracking
station under consideration for NASA's Deep Space Network
(DSN) Array. SAG representatives, and in particular, the
highly-motivated Department of Science & Technology, are
cooperating to the fullest extent possible with NASA in the
selection effort. End summary.
Background and Introduction
2. (SBU) NASA's DSN must be capable of mapping the
universe, moon, and planetary bodies for further
international human space exploration. To improve its
current capability, NASA may establish a new space vehicle
tracking station to project into deep space and receive
signals from various stars and galaxies. It is evaluating
potential sites for the tracking station in Australia, Spain
and South Africa, and could reach a decision in March 2005.
3. (U) South Africa is keenly interested in hosting a deep
space vehicle tracking station for the DSN Array. Astronomy
is a top priority in the national R strategy. The
Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT) project, involving
collaboration with a number of U.S. and foreign academic
institutions, will soon be completed. South Africa also is
competing actively to host the Square Kilometer Array (SKA)
radio telescope, which will be the largest space receiving
surface in existence.
4. (SBU) In support of its effort to be selected, South
Africa's Department of Science and Technology (DST)
submitted a detailed technical analysis to NASA. The South
African cabinet approved the proposal to invite NASA to
consider South Africa as a site for a tracking station. On
January 28 through February 8, DST hosted a team from NASA,
led by Dr. Barry Geldzahler, Program Executive for Space
Operations Deep Space Network, and accompanied by Embassy
Defense Attache Col. Michael Muolo, who has extensive
professional experience and expertise in space policy
issues.
Site Visits and Meetings Productive
5. (SBU) The NASA delegation visited four sites in the
Northern Cape province to evaluate climatic conditions,
geology, radio interference, and general infrastructure
capacity. Provincial and municipal government
representatives committed to cost-sharing for power, water
and sewage costs associated with the project, which they
expect to provide a major economic boost to the region. The
group also met with representatives of SA Telkom and
parastatal energy company Eskom, to discuss communications
and power requirements, and to learn about the capacity of
South African companies to fabricate components, such as
antennas, for the station.
6. (SBU) DST representatives organized and participated in
the site visits and meetings. DST continues to respond to
follow up questions from NASA regarding local manufacturing
capabilities and other requirements for hosting a tracking
station. In addition, DST has agreed to consider cost-
sharing for infrastructure costs.
Other Positive Outcomes
7. (U) On February 7, Dr. Geldzahler and Marcus Watkins,
NASA Representative to Spain, participated in an outreach
program with selected students and teachers from nine high
schools in the Johannesburg area, organized by the Consulate
General's Public Affairs Section (Ref A). The NASA
officials fielded questions on "dark energy," NASA budgets,
job opportunities in aerospace and broader foreign policy
issues, and helped to deepen students' interest in space and
science.
DST Follow-Up with Ambassador
8. (SBU) Soon after the visit, Director-General for Science
& Technology Dr. Rob Adam requested a meeting with
Ambassador Frazer to underscore the strong SAG interest in
hosting a NASA DSN Array space vehicle tracking station.
During the February 11 meeting, the Ambassador told Dr. Adam
that NASA would base its decision on technical merit, but
encouraged the government of South Africa to convey its
strong support for the project through a letter from
President Mbeki to President Bush, or from the Minister of
Science & Technology to an appropriate counterpart.
9. (SBU) Comment: If South Africa were selected, the DSN
Array project would generate significant economic benefits
as well as a major infusion of technology from the U.S. It
would also provide an excellent boost for expanded S
cooperation between the U.S. and South Africa, and for the
bilateral relationship. However, it should be noted that
NASA plans to develop a next generation DSN Array network
have not yet advanced very far within the agency, and it
will likely take time before decisions are reached on the
array and any new NASA DSN site.
10. (U) NASA Headquarters cleared this message.
FRAZER
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