Brazil already has its first 100% national earth image satellite. Amazonia-1 was launched by an Indian PSLV (Polar Satellite Launcher) rocket in the early hours of the morning on Sunday (28th) and went into orbit and established communication with the team responsible for the mission at the National Institute for Space Research in São José dos her Campos (SP).
The success is an important milestone for the ailing Brazilian space program and crowns a work of around three decades at Inpe, from the original conception to flight. And if thirty years sounds like an absurdly long interval for a project like this, it’s because it is. The good news is that a space mission is never easy and everything seems to have worked out so far.
The Amazon-1 was launched at 1:54 a.m. (Brazilian time) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in southern India and 17 minutes later in polar orbit (orbiting the earth above the poles) at an altitude of 760 km.
Equipped with a wide-field camera that can take pictures with a width of approx. 860 km and a resolution of approx. 60 meters, it will now accompany the Cbers-4 and 4A satellites, which were jointly built by Brazil and China, in space. The feat brings the number of national earth observation devices in operation to three. The minimum useful life of Amazônia-1 is estimated to be four years.
This is not only the first purely Brazilian terrestrial observation satellite, but also the task of validating the Multimission Platform (PMM), an INPE project that aims to create a “generic” structure for satellites with all essential subsystems from a technical point of view View that leaves space for installing different instruments for different purposes.
For example, it was an old dream to use the same platform model as Amazônia-1 on an astronomical satellite aimed at X-ray observations. The mission was even formatted at the institute, but the resources to make it a reality never appeared. And at this point in time, with so much development time, the PMM is technologically “old”. Worse still, there are no immediate prospects for new missions.
There are even plans for two satellites in the Amazon series (1A and 2), but there is no prospect of funding to begin their development cycle. Other suggestions for PMM are still further afield.
With the upcoming reformulation of the PNAE (National Program for Space Activities) for the next decade, we need to have a clearer idea of what to expect. However, there is no reason to be optimistic. Given the explosive public deficit growth and strategic myopia in recent governments from the heavy divestment of science and technology, the biggest threat is that Amazonia-1 will have to change its name to Amazonia-Unique.
This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.
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