Brazil Back in Space

 Brazil Back in Space

Ukrania, China, the
US, and Russia will participate in the new
phase of Brazil’s Alcântara Satellite Launching Center. The
initial launch is scheduled for 2006, with a Satellite Launching
Vehicle, capable of carrying a lighter load. A heavier satellite,
which would be placed in a higher orbit, should occur around 2008.
by: Eduardo
Mamcasz

The President of the AEB (Agência Espacial Brasileira—Brazilian
Space Agency) Sérgio Gaudenzi, spoke about new developments in Brazil’s
Space Program, for which the government will disburse US$ 11.7 million (36
million reais).

Gaudenzi’s news included
the planned launch of a satellite launcher from the base in Alcântara,
in the Northeast region, in 2006, and the missile-launching project in collaboration
with Ukrania.

"The Aeronautics
center is already taking care of the missile itself, and in 2006, as is scheduled,
we shall send our launch vehicle into space," declared the President
of the AEB.

Gaudenzi also referred
to the interest that the Alcântara base has awakened in various countries
with space programs, such as Ukrania, Russia, and the US.

"We enjoy a privileged
situation for launches. The Alcântara Base is unequalled in the world;
it is located almost right on the line of the Equator and has a 12-month window
(the possibility of launches all year-round). So, the Alcântara Base
really represents a privilege bestowed on us by nature, and we have to take
advantage of it," Gaudenzi affirms.

According to Gaudenzi,
Ukrania, China, the United States, and Russia will participate in the new
phase of the Alcântara Satellite Launching Center, in the state of Maranhão.

The initial launch in
this new phase is scheduled for 2006, with a SLV (Satellite Launching Vehicle),
capable of carrying "a lighter load." The launching of a satellite
that is "heavier and placed in a higher orbit," according to Gaudenzi,
should occur "around 2008."

Brazil and Ukrania have
already signed an agreement that awaits Congressional approval in the two
countries. The agreement is for the Cyclone-IV satellite, which will require
Ukrania to construct a special base.

"Each launcher needs
a different platform," the new President of the AEB explained. He said
that he believes the agreement will be ratified in August and will permit
the creation of a binational company.

Gaudenzi assured that
"there are very good signs that we shall also be able to reach the same
kind of agreement" with the United States. And he pointed out that the
Brazilian space industry is already involved in supplying "some components"
and its logotype appears on Nasa’s satellite launching platforms.

Another country interested
in taking part in launches at Alcântara is Russia, with which there
exists a "great and concrete possibility of a space agreement."

The President of the AEB
explained that "the area in Alcântara is large and can contain
various sites, which is why we can obtain cooperation from various countries."

Regarding China, a country
with which Brazil has already launched two satellites in the Cbers series,
Gaudenzi informed that the third will be launched "in 2007 or 2008"
but that the Cbers-IV will depart from the Alcântara Launching Base.
In September, he said, there will be a meeting in Beijing to work out the
final details.

Space Program Threatened

In April, the Superior
Council of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) had released a statement declaring
that without investments Brazil’s space program would not be able to continue.
The note added, "…if the program cannot obtain a minimum of results
for Brazil, it is better to close it down."

The council examined measures
to restart the program, saying that they were expecting to receive 106 million
reais (US$ 30 million) earmarked for the satellite launch vehicle program
and outstanding commitments with Ukraine.

"That amount is realistic
in light of the situation in Brazil, although it is a very modest amount compared
to what other countries are spending," declared the president of the
AEB, Luiz Bevilacqua.

Meanwhile, Nelson Cabral,
who represents the Ministry of Communications on the AEB council, suggested
finding other sources for financing, such as telecommunications funds (the
Fistel or Funtel, for example).

The AEB council decided
to create work groups with participants from the industrial sector, the academic
community and specialists to accompany its launch vehicle, satellite and infrastructure
programs.

According to Walter Bartels,
the director of the Aerospace Industry Association (Aiab), Brazil has the
skilled manpower necessary for its space program. But he suggested the AEB
leave manufacturing to the industrial sector and concentrate on research.

The AEB Superior Council
also studied the report on the August 2003 accident at the Alcântara
launch center when a satellite launch vehicle (VLS) exploded killing more
than 20 people.

Right after that accident,
Minister of Science and Technology, Roberto Amaral, said the tragedy would
not affect Brazil’s plans to move ahead with its space program which includes
launches and the manufacture of satellites.

"It was an accident.
We will make corrections and advance with our space program which, in accordance
with a decision by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, will include
the launch of a VLS-4 during his term of office," said Amaral.


Eduardo Mamcasz works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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