The South African National Space Agency (SANSA), in partnership with the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), will host a virtual hackathon. The Hackathon aims at discovering solutions for the threats posed by space weather to our satellite infrastructure. Consequently, the hackathon will be over the weekend of 25 and 26 June 2021.
Context to the Hackathon
With the advances in space-based technologies, societies become increasingly reliant on these technologies. These technologies include satellites for navigation, communications, and weather prediction. Thus, if satellites were to fail, every aspect of our lives would be affected. For example, all flights would stand grounded due to the lack of navigation systems and communications with ground support. Furthermore, we would be unable to predict the weather causing pilots to fly blindly into storms. In addition, utilities such as sewer works, waterworks, traffic lights would also be in danger as these systems often rely on GPS satellites timestamps to work. The absence of timestamps from satellites would also put financial transactions and ATM withdrawals in jeopardy.
Satellite television and radio would disappear. Furthermore, broadband connectivity and international phone calls would also become impossible, affecting our global economy on a grand scale. The chances of all our satellites going off-line all at once seem unlikely, but one phenomenon poses such a threat. Space weather is a consequence of activity on the sun. Thus, if solar flares or coronal mass ejections hit the earth, it could have a devastating impact on our satellites.
The Hackathon theme aligns with the World Space Week theme, “Satellites improve life”. Furthermore, it focuses on the impact of satellites on our daily lives. In addition, there will be an emphasis on space weather which has been recognised as a global challenge impacting our technologies.
Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, SANSA Managing Director, describes this hackathon as an important intervention in the quest to manage the global challenge of space weather. “This event will demonstrate how innovation and teamwork can result in applicable solutions. We encourage collaboration as a way of tapping into the potential of South Africa’s role in solving this global problem.”
Participants may sign up as a team or individually and have 24 hours to develop an innovative and creative solution to the problem statement. There are cash prizes up for grabs, and the winning team will win a sponsored trip to visit the top space facilities in the Western Cape, including the SANSA campus in Hermanus.