Argentina Plans First Domestic Satellite Launch

Tronador II rocket. (Credit: Sergio Panei Pitrau)

Argentina is looking to join the exclusive club of nations with the capacity to launch its own satellites by 2013.

Engineers are now working on the new Tronador II (Thunderer II) , a two-stage rocket that will be capable of launch a 200 kg payload into low-Earth orbit. According to El Argentino, engineering faculty at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata will begin tests on a Tronador prototype next year with the intention of having a vehicle ready to launch in 2013. The work is being overseen by the National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE). Argentina’s first domestic satellite mission will lift off from a new launch pad at a military base in Puerto Belgrano.

The 34-meter tall rocket is based on the Tronador I, a single-stage booster that was first launched in 2007. The earlier rocket served as a technological testbed and only reached 20 km in altitude.

The Tronador II project is a key part of Argentina’s National Space Plan, which also the domestic development of satellite systems, the establishment of the Institute of Space Studies, the creation of information systems using space data, and the expansion of ground infrastructure.

The most intriguing goal is the creation of a regional space agency. In late August, Argentina’s Defense Minister, Arturo Puricelli, proposed the development of a South American space agency to his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim. Brazil has its own ambitions in space, which include launching Ukraine’s Cyclone-4 rocket from its Alcantara Launch Center and developing a family of boosters with Russia.