An international agreement between U.S. and Brazil for commercial use of a rocket launch site in Alcantara is advancing and will take center stage during Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Brasilia this week.
Brazil's defense minister recently said that Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other U.S. aerospace companies have expressed interest in launching rockets from its Alcantara military base.
Alcantara's location makes it attractive because one-fifth less fuel is used to launch satellites into orbit along the equator compared with sites farther north or south. Both sides have made concessions and things are moving ahead in a very positive way, says Jefferson Michaelis head of the BFCC/KSCIA International Space-STEM Partnerships.
Alcantara's proximity to the equator which is only 2 degrees south of the equator makes it cheaper to launch rockets. The base could generate revenue of up to $1.5 billion per year, according to the Brazilian defense ministry.
Launches from Brazil take advantage of the increased rotational velocity of the earth for an "extra push" into equatorial orbits, translating to about a 30 percent increase in the amount of payload a rocket can lift as compared to Cape Canaveral. This would be a major efficiency gain for U.S. launch companies.
Brazil's geographic and economic characteristics are such that there is a great potential to employ space technology to meet national needs, therefore a huge market for U.S. companies to compete for potential large contracts in the domestic space market. The Brazilian Air Force plans to spend approximately $2.4 billion over the next 10 years on its strategic space systems program, including on four or five fleets of satellites, investment in the Alcântara infrastructure, laboratories and research. Brazil's satellite program plans to spend $380 million over the same period.
The Brazilian commercial market is also very attractive. There is huge demand for satellite services (broadband connectivity, rural communications, etc.) that satellite service providers could help to address, including a Brazilian national broadband plan designed to providing broadband to millions of Brazilians who currently don't have Internet access. Brazil is already one of the largest smartphone market by volume in the world.
According to 321Go.Space sources, a cooperation on a space partnership between the U.S. and Brazil will be an important part of the upcoming trip and a topic of a working lunch Vice President Mike Pence will have with President Michel Temer. Pence heads the National Space Council and is seeking to expand the council's work with international space partnerships.
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