Editor’s Note: This is intriguing press release from the Brazilian Space Agency about plans to conduct satellite launches from Alcantara Launch Center next year. The Atlantic coast spaceport, which is 2.2 degrees from the equator, has never hosted orbital launches despite several previous efforts over many decades that have come to naught.
It’s not clear what launch vehicle will be used. The press release mentions the Technological Safeguards Agreement with the United States that would allow U.S. satellites and launch vehicles to fly from Alcantara. A number of American launch companies have visited Alcantara to evaluate the spaceport.
Alcantara has always been the spaceport of the future. Maybe the future is now.
BRASILIA, Brazil (Brazilian Space Agency PR) — It is located in Alcântara, Maranhão, the largest space vehicle launch center in the country. Created 38 years ago, and having started operating in 1991, it is preparing to launch private launches from 2022. With the successful launch of the Brazilian satellite Amazonia 1, in India, Brazil confirms its ability to design, integrate and operate satellites and other state-of-the-art systems. Henceforth, depending on size and mass, satellites may be launched from the Alcântara Space Center (CEA).
The municipality of Alcântara has more than 22,000 inhabitants and has seen its history change with the installation of the space center in the region. The local population wishes that, with the strengthening of the space area in Brazil, Alcântara can directly benefit from the activities developed by the institutions that are part of the Brazilian Space Program.
According to the president of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB/MCTI), Carlos Moura, when making the first orbital launch from Alcântara, Brazil will become part of a restricted club of countries that are capable of placing satellites in orbit. And about CEA, Moura points out: “There is no point in developing technological services in Alcântara, having a world-class spaceport, and the population does not benefit from it. What we want is an integrated development, that everyone benefits from the opportunities offered by the space sector.”
In November 2019, the National Congress ratified the Technological Safeguards Agreement, signed by the federal government in January 2020. The Agreement allows Brazil to launch space artifacts that have American components from the national soil, which encompasses most of the world market. The goal is to transform CEA into a competitive launch center internationally, attracting both domestic and foreign companies.
Last year, the Integrated Development Commission for the Alcântara Space Center (CDI-CEA) was created, chaired by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, Marcos Pontes, and coordinated by the Space Sector Governance director of the Brazilian Space Agency, Cristiano Augusto Trein. The commission is responsible for preparing and implementing the Integrated Development Program for the CEA (PDI-CEA), with the objective of developing the region’s infrastructure, as well as creating business models that encourage space activities.
The PDI-CEA comprises a series of initiatives, with the participation of several public bodies, to improve the infrastructure of the municipality and its surroundings, through the realization of synergistic projects between the federal, state and municipal spheres. Other civil society entities are also being involved. The initial version of the plan must be delivered to the MCTI in the second half of 2021 and will continue for validation by the Presidency of the Republic.
Also according to the president of the AEB, Carlos Moura, the PDI-CEA will focus on the needs of the CEA and the population of Alcantarense. In other words, “improve health, education, the entrepreneurial spirit, so that we have a skilled workforce to meet the services that will be demanded by the development of space activities in the region”.
Currently, one of the biggest challenges in the municipality of Alcântara is the difficulties related to logistics. Improving access to the region is fundamental to local development and, for that, the idea is to strengthen, for example, waterway transport between São Luís and Alcântara.
Therefore, a Work Plan was signed, in conjunction with the Ministry of Infrastructure (MINFRA), to implement actions related to the PDI-CEA. The document was signed by the executive secretary of MINFRA, Marcelo Sampaio, and by the president of the AEB, Carlos Moura.
More than focusing on middle activities and segments to support spatial development, AEB also encourages residents of the area to occupy technical posts in the Center. For this, it is necessary to boost the training of local labor. The partnership with the Federation of Industries of the State of Maranhão (Fiema) and other associated entities has been one of the relevant points of this planning.
The Brazilian Space Agency, central body of the National System for the Development of Space Activities (SINDAE), is an autarchy linked to the MCTI, responsible for formulating, coordinating and executing the Brazilian Space Policy.
Since its creation, on February 10, 1994, the Agency has been working to make the Brazilian State’s efforts to promote the well-being of society via the sovereign employment of the space sector viable.