Brazilians Seek Spot Among Rocket Launching Nations

Ukraine's Cyclone-4 rocket

RIA Novosti reports that a Brazilian delegation headed by Defense Minister Nelson Jobin is in the Ukraine for three-days of talks on military and space cooperation.

On the space side, the delegation will discuss the Alcantara Cyclone Space joint venture, which was established in 2006 to launch Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rockets from the Alcântara spaceport in Brazil. The rocket was originally scheduled to debut this year. The first launch is now set for 2012.

Cyclone-4 can launch satellites weighing up to 5,300 kilograms to equatorial low earth orbit (LEO) and 1,600 kilograms to geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

In addition to the Ukrainian joint venture, Brazil has announced plans to launch a satellite into orbit in 2014 using the smaller, domestically produced VLS-1 rocket. The booster will be a revamped version of one that exploded in Alcântara in 2003, killing 21 people.

“From 2003 up to now there has been a major revision of the design of the VLS,” said Himilcon Carvalho, AEB director of space policy and strategic investments, in an April press release.

The first test of the VLS-1 rocket as it is called, is scheduled for 2012, informs Carvalho. At that stage will be triggered only the first two stages of the propellant, which are at the bottom. In 2013 are expected to fly with full load, but still experimental. “In 2014 we will be able to put a satellite into orbit,” he says.

While the VLS is not ready, Brazil contracted services abroad to launch their satellites. Today there are three Brazilian equipment into orbit. Two of them – the SCD 1 and 2 – capture information about environmental data (level of rivers, amount of rainfall) from hundreds of stations throughout Brazil.

A more advanced satellite, called CBERS-2B, takes pictures of the planet and helps Brazil to monitor Amazon deforestation. The equipment, manufactured in partnership with China is already the third in a family of five members – two more to be launched by 2014.

In the queue are also developing other satellites in Brazil: the Amazon-1, which will have a camera with a wider viewing angle than the Cbers, and Lattes, who will analyze harmful particles coming from space and hit the ground, and discover sources x-ray at the center of the Milky Way.

“With the Amazon-1 and CBERS able to photograph the world in three days,” the coordinator of Technology Management at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Marco Antonio Chamon.

None of the satellites provided, however, can be loaded by the VLS version of which will be ready in 2014. They are too heavy for the capacity of the rocket, which will probably make its flight debut with a smaller equipment such as satellite Itasat university, which is being planned at the Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica (ITA).

When Brazil gets its rocket programs up and running, it could become a competitor on the international launch market. That’s potentially bad news for rocket builders but will give satellite makers more options.