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Business Interest Grows in Brazil’s Alcântara Spaceport as Virgin Orbit Deal Announced

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 28, 2021
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Launch trajectories from Alcantara (Credit: AEB)

BRASILIA, Brazil (AEB PR) — After the approval of the Technological Safeguards Agreement by the federal government, in January 2020, the joint work for the development of the Brazilian Space Program continued. With the creation of the Integrated Development Commission for the Alcântara Space Center (CDI-CEA), on August 13, 2020, through Decree No. 10,458, the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), an autarchy linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI) and coordinator of the Commission, seeks partnerships, including in the state of Maranhão.

The effort also involves actions with entities and companies from the Maranhão private sector. The objective is to jointly implement the Integrated Development Program for the Alcântara Space Center (PDI-CEA). We highlight the important participation of the Federation of Industries of the State of Maranhão (FIEMA) and regional institutions for development to take place in an integrated manner. The PDI-CEA is fundamental for the socio-economic development of Alcântara, with the implementation of actions that can improve the region around the launch center.

FIEMA, which represents business entities and coordinates the Pensar o Maranhão Working Group, participates in the CDI-CEA meetings. 

“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”, says the president of the Brazilian Space Agency, Carlos Moura. 

The CDI-CEA is chaired by the Minister of MCTI, Marcos Pontes, and coordinated by Cristiano Trein, director of Space Sector Governance at AEB.

Second public call

AEB recently announced the second public call for bids for companies interested in using the Alcântara spaceport. The first focused on small launchers, using the Center’s already operational facilities. In the second, the proposal is to attract companies with the capacity to carry out larger launches and better explore the areas existing in the nine thousand hectares already occupied by space activity. 

The first launch operated by companies, resulting from the first public call for tenders, is expected to happen in the first half of 2022. The announcement of the contracted companies will be made soon by Aeronautics, together with AEB. [See: Virgin Orbit Selected to Launch Satellites from Brazil’s Alcantara Space Center]

Different countries have already expressed interest in carrying out operations from Alcântara. In response to the first public call, fourteen companies sent their respective initial documentation. Of these, nine presented final proposals, between Brazilian and foreign. The next phase will consist of negotiations with Aeronautics – the person responsible for the management of the Center – for the purpose of establishing the first service provision contracts: a milestone for the history of Alcântara and for the Brazilian Space Program.

About AEB

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.

One response to “Business Interest Grows in Brazil’s Alcântara Spaceport as Virgin Orbit Deal Announced”

  1. duheagle says:

    I guess going from zero interest to at least a bit of interest can be technically spun as “growing,” but it’s still pretty small beer. If the Brazilians want to see Alcantara heavily used, they will have to gin up such usage on their own rather than chase foreign fairy godmothers. Other than Virgin Orbit, a decidedly marginal member of the U.S. smallsat launch industry, it’s hard to foresee any additional foreign interest in Alcantara except perhaps by one or two European smallsat launcher companies of equivalent marginality.

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