Brazil Eyes Alcantara for Smallsat Launches

VLS-1 rocket on launch pad.

Reuters reports Brazil is eyeing the use of the Alcantara Launch Center for small satellite flights.

Brazil is ready to launch small commercial rockets from its space base near the equator as soon as it agrees to safeguard U.S. technology that is dominant in the industry, the Brazilian Air Force officer managing the space program said on Friday.

Brig. Major Luiz Fernando Aguiar said Brazil wants to get a piece of the $300 billion-a-year space launch business by drawing U.S. companies interested in launching small satellites at a lower cost from the Alcantara base on its north coast.

“The microsatellite market is most attractive today and we are interested in the 50 to 500-kilo niche,” Aguiar told Reuters at the base’s main launch pad. “We are developing a rocket for microsatellites. For that this tower is totally ready.”


Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in December visited the Alcantara space center, which is especially attractive to smaller firms, such as Tucson, Arizona-based rocket-maker Vector Launch Inc, because its equatorial location cuts fuel costs by a third allowing heavier payloads.

  • Robert G. Oler

    interesting particularly the Boeing Lockmart thing

  • AdmBenson

    In a way, this story doesn’t add up. Brazil has it’s own smallsat launchers in development, the solid fueled VLS-1 and VLM, which are unlikely to be cost competitive with foreign liquid fueled smallsat launchers. The Brazilians would be shooting their domestic efforts in the foot by doing this.

    As for Boeing/Lockmart, they’re looking for a way to make Vulcan cost competitive with SpaceX and an equatorial launch site like Alcantara would greatly help with that. However, it is essential that any US/Brazilian agreement regarding the use of Alcantara be on a very solid foundation since building launch facilities there will require a multi-billion dollar investment.

    Lastly, what does the US government want with Alcantara? So far, the US has done well without an equatorial launch site. However, if NASA is to have a sustained deep space manned presence, it is necessary to minimize the cost of launching bulk cargo and launching from near the equator would greatly help.

    Currently, the ball is in play regarding US/Brazil negotiations over Alcantara. Hopefully, the Trump administration will not be short sighted and apply “Art of the Deal” tactics to extract concessions that leave the Brazilians feeling like they got the short end of the stick. If Alcantara is to become Cape Canaveral South, it will require that the Brazilians feel like partners so that the US use of the base is not at the mercy of changing political winds. To that end, throwing Brazil a nice, fat, juicy bone like allowing Brazilian ownership of support services and infrastructure (fueling?) or, perhaps, financing Cyclone-4 launches from there is the better way to go.

  • SamuelRoman13

    A SRB it sounds like. Doug may remove this if he likes. Some SciFI. Silly maybe. Segmented SRM are very easy to make. 19th century tech. A Heavy SRB could have been made in the 1930’s. A sequencer used to turn down range and fire the 2nd stage. Then the gravity turn to orbit. No steering. A TV camera used for weather or submarine, ship or Tank movement. Might have stopped WW2. Vacuum tubes would last awhile. Edison batteries last for ever and would work. A steam or hot air engine powered generator. They made some good size reflecting telescope mirrors. Wire or tape recorder. Maybe a way out orbit for real time. Instead of thinking of ways to kill a lot of people this may have worked. Changing the timeline though, I may not be here. My mother may have had children with another man and I would not be me. But Goddard had to come up with those little old LRB.

  • redneck

    Have you ever studied actual history of solid rocketry?

  • SamuelRoman13

    Yes. I have been reading about rockets and the what is needed to build and fly them for 50 years. In the book From the Earth to the Moon they used a cannon. In the last of the 1800s. I doubt that would have worked, but a giant SRB would and could have been made with what was available. Would have taken a lot of expensive testing to aim it to hit the Moon.

  • redneck

    As diplomatically as I can say it is that you must have skimmed over the problems that all solid rocket developers had. There’s a lot of destroyed hardware that contradicts your opinion.