Friday, July 30, 2010

Brazil Resumes Rocket Launches

Brazil has resumed test launching relatively small rockets at its Alcantara launch site, preparing for the launch of larger rockets later. Eventually it will resume testing of large rockets that could launch a satellite into orbit (an SLV in English, a VLS in Portuguese).

Brazil suffered a serious setback about a year ago when a large rocket for the SLV program exploded on the launch pad causing widespread damage.

When I was the science officer at the American Embassy in Brazil back in the 1980s, the US was adamantly opposed to its space launch program, under policies that emanated from Richard Perle at the Pentagon. The Brazilians wanted to buy ground stations to monitor telemetry from satellites passing over the Amazon, in part to track deforestation. The American company, Scientific Atlanta, somehow messed up their bid, and the Brazilians selected the Japanese to build the ground stations. At the Department of Commerce's request, I asked my contacts at INPE, the space agency, if there was any chance to reopen the bidding. They agreed to do so, and the second time around, the American company won. However, the Pentagon then denied the export license for the stations, because it said they could be used for developing missiles. The Brazilians were furious, and that pretty much ended my good relationship with INPE. The stations were not at all suited to do missile tracking, and eventually the DOD decision was reversed, but not until the everybody, especially the Brazil, was unhappy. The ironic thing was that they were intended for an environmental mission, rather than a military one.

No comments: