A space flight of an unprecedented nature is scheduled for 6 am (Brasília time) this Tuesday (20) to the Alcântara Launch Center (CLA), in Maranhão: for the first time a rocket from a foreign company will depart from the coveted site Brazilian.
Responsible will be Innospace, a South Korean startup that is developing a nanosatellite launch vehicle and hopes in the future to benefit from the privileged location to gain performance due to the geographical position of Alcântara: very close to the equator, it provides savings of fuel (or, in other terms, increased carrying capacity) for vehicles departing from there.
This is not yet the case, however, for this initial flight, which does not materialize the Brazilian objective of promoting orbital launches from the national territory. Called Hanbit-TLV, the current vehicle is suborbital, with only the first active stage (powered by paraffin and liquid oxygen) and 16.3 meters (slightly lower than the old Brazilian VLS-1, which was 19.7 m ).
It is an important precursor to the Hanbit-Nano, which is capable of satelliteizing up to 50 kg in an orbit at an altitude of 500 km.
The agreement is not part of the package announced in April 2021, when the main CLA sites were allocated to four companies (Virgin Orbit, C6 Launch Systems, Orion AST and Hyperion), none of which have so far carried out any launches. The agreement with Innospace, on the other hand, advanced in record time: announced in May this year, it will now have its first flight.
The medium-term expectation, with the commercialization of the center, is that Brazil will be able to profit from the satellite launch market, even though it does not yet have its own launcher. But that is not the case with the current operation, which is set up as an international technological cooperation action between the Brazilian government and the South Korean company.
The launcher was brought from South Korea partially disassembled on a Boeing 747 that landed in São Luís. From there it was a 40-hour trip, by river and land, to reach Alcântara (distance of 30 km).
For Brazil, in addition to the unprecedented launch, the flight is important for testing the inertial platform developed by the IAE (Institute of Aeronautics and Space), which will be onboard the vehicle. Called Sisnav, it is basically the system that allows the launcher to guide themselves and know where they are going, without relying on external references – crucial technology for the future development of Brazilian launchers.
Due to alleged lack of internet quality in the center, there will be no live broadcast of the launch. The operation, named Astrolábio, is the joint responsibility of the FAB (Brazilian Air Force), AEB (Brazilian Space Agency) and Innospace. If it is not possible to launch on Tuesday, the flight can still take place in the following days – the window goes until the 21st.
This column is published on Mondays in Folha Corrida.
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