Between the independent pursuit by overseas observers and allegations of “fake news” by top levels of government, the first week of Amazonia-1 in space was quite excited. Here is the full story of how it came about.
In the early hours of last Sunday (28) the Indian rocket PSLV injected the first 100% Brazilian Earth observation satellite into a polar orbit 750 km high. The spaceship exited the device with an excessive rotation when it took off, but this was stopped by the satellite’s attitude control system.
The first passage showed a nominal situation and the engineers and technicians from Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) in São José dos Campos (SP) started the satellite certification process with the usual controls.
On Tuesday (2), in anticipation of two flights over Brazilian soil on the following day, the order was launched to put the Amazonia-1 into mission mode and prepare to activate its camera. And then the reality deviates from the official version.
According to those involved in the project, who prefer not to identify themselves, one of the satellite’s operating parameters showed a non-nominal value, and the on-board computer automatically activated survival mode. In this situation, Amazônia-1 initiates a movement to ensure that sunlight is shining on the panels and that the batteries are prevented from discharging. During this time, two trackers, one in the US and one in Italy, about seven hours apart, discovered the alleged “false news”. It was real.
Space activities are known to be a challenge. And the Inpe team was always up to the challenge. By correctly interpreting the situation and following the protocols with the assistance of aid stations outside the country (to increase contact opportunities), the situation had been circumvented by the end of Tuesday evening and the satellite went into mission mode. Big win after a print. It’s out of the game. Even Hubble, it spins and moves, goes into safe mode.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday (3), while Amazônia-1 was making two trips to Brazil and taking beautiful pictures, Inpe’s director, Clezio de Nardin, and the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Marcos Pontes, went to the “fashion government “” That nothing unusual has happened. “Fake News”. You missed a spectacular opportunity to demonstrate how difficulties Inpe professionals face and overcome.
As soon as the episode is over, one doubt remains: do we want an open and transparent civil space program à la Nasa or, like China, do we follow the path of secrecy and silence? It is worth remembering that Tianwen-1’s orbital insertion on Mars was only followed live by independent trackers, just as the unusual behavior of Amazonia-1 was noted last Tuesday. I leave that to the government ideologues on duty.
This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.
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