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Argentina Resumes Development of Tronador II/III Satellite Launch Vehicle

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
November 22, 2021
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Daniel Rocca explains to the delegation the work that is carried out in CEPI facilities. (Credit: Audiovisual Photo/MINCyT Press)

PIPINAS, Argentina (CONAE PR) — Minister Daniel Filmus announced that in 2022 4,500 million pesos [US $44.78 million] will be allocated to relaunch CONAE’s Access to Space program, which includes the manufacture of vehicles to place satellites weighing up to 750 kilos [1,653 lb] into orbit, in addition to the associated auxiliary infrastructure and the launch bases.

Within the framework of the reactivation of strategic projects, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Nation (MINCyT) relaunched the Access to Space program carried out by the National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE) , which includes the development of vehicles experimental VExs and Tronador II/III launchers, as well as associated auxiliary infrastructure and launch bases. It is planned investments of about 4,500 million pesos [US $44.78 million] in 2022 .

The announcement was made at the facilities of CONAE’s Punta Indio Space Center (CEPI), located in the town of Pipinas, province of Buenos Aires, by Minister Daniel Filmus and CONAE’s executive and technical director, Raúl Kulichevsky. Also present were the manager of Access to Space of the Argentine space agency, Daniel Rocca; the general administrator of the Directorate of Roads of the Province of Buenos Aires, Hernán Y Zurieta; the mayor of the Municipality of Punta Indio, Leonardo Angueira; the coordinator of the Punta Indio Space Center, Mariano Paredes for the company VENG and; on behalf of INVAP, Guillermo Salvatierra.

Experimental Vehicle VEx 1B at CEPI facilities. (Credit: Audiovisual Photo/MINCyT Press)

Filmus stressed the importance of “having reactivated this Program because of what it means for our aerospace and satellite sovereignty, for the training of highly trained human resources and, also, because of the relevance it has for many local SMEs.”

The Tronador II/III is a two-stage launcher, approximately 28 meters long and 2.5 meters in diameter, with a thrust of about 120 [metric] tons [132.3 US tons] at takeoff. 

“The development of this project will allow Argentina to complete the domain of space technology necessary to put its own satellites, designed and manufactured in the country, into orbit, and to be able to offer this service to other countries in the region and the world,” Kulichevsky said. Currently only 10 countries dominate the entire space cycle.

“Having our own capacity to launch satellites is very important to reach the specific orbits that our missions require, achieve full independence in this sector and exercise our sovereignty through the peaceful use of outer space. In addition, we will be able to offer launch services to other countries and thus generate foreign exchange by exporting high added value ”, he said.

Raúl Kulichevsky received Daniel Filmus and a delegation at the Pipinas Space Center (CEPI) of CONAE. (Credit: Audiovisual Photo/MINCyT Press)

Investment and spatial development

In a first stage, the reactivation of the Access to Space program will allow progress in the development of the experimental vehicles VEx 5 and VEx 6 , to consolidate the necessary technologies required by the Tronador II / III projects, such as avionics, propulsion systems and structures. It is estimated that the first flight of these prototypes could take place at the end of 2023. Then the Tronador II-A is planned to be carried out with the aim of satellite payloads of up to 250 kilos [551 lb] at 600 kilometers [373 miles] high . With the following launchers , the aim is to increase the payloads to reach 500 kilos [1,102 lb], with the Tronador II-B, and 750 kilos [1,653 lb] with the Tronador III.

With regard to launch bases, it is planned to recover the necessary infrastructure for the development, manufacture, integration, testing and subsequent launch of experimental VEx vehicles from the facilities of La Capetina, which are part of CEPI. In the future, it is also planned to develop the Manuel Belgrano Space Center (CEMB), in the south of the province of Buenos Aires, where the Launch Center of the VEx 6 vehicle and the Tronador II/III launchers will be located.

Made in Argentina

The Tronador project is a national initiative in which public entities, the scientific-technological system and technology-based companies participate . The positive impact that the development of this spatial project represents for the Municipality of Punta Indio and the town of Pipinas in particular is also highlighted .

“The manufacture of launch vehicles is an enormous technological challenge, the development of which will be based on the high capacities of the professionals who work at CONAE and at VENG SA , the main contractor of the flight segment of the Light Payload Satellite Injector (ISCUL) program),” Kulichevsky said. 

He also underlined the importance of other suppliers such as the National University of La Plata (UNLP), the Argentine Aircraft Factory (FAdeA) and the INVAP company, with regard to the land segment, as well as a large number of SMEs from technological base that will act as subcontractors.

3 responses to “Argentina Resumes Development of Tronador II/III Satellite Launch Vehicle”

  1. schmoe says:

    Interesting CONAE chose to use kerolox on the booster stage and hypergols (MMH/N2O4) on the upper stage.

    Kerolox is capable of higher isp than hypergols… It might give them better overall performance to go hypergols for the booster stage and kerolox for the upper stage. 🙂

    • duheagle says:

      That would require a much larger total load of hypergols on the launch pad – not a plus for the safety of the launch site in the event of accidents. Unburned hypergols from each normal launch would also be a lingering problem. The Soviets got away with this for Proton, Zenit and ICBM launches for a long time as Baikonur and Plesetsk are both in the back of beyond. I’m not sure there is anywhere comparably isolated along the Atlantic coast of Argentina.

      • schmoe says:

        True. Though I was thinking India made it work with hypergolic boosters on coastal launches from Sriharikota. GSLV’s core stage has something like 116 metric tons of hypergols.

        Then again CONAE did launch both their SAOCOM satellites on Falcon 9 Block 5’s.. Taking a page out of Elon’s playbook and standardizing on all kerolox would have been a great option too 🙂

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