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.

IMF: Ukraine Space Sector Possibly Suffered 80 Percent Revenue Loss

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)
The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares (aka, Taurus II) rocket is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

The International Monetary Fund estimates the Ukrainian space industry lost up to 80 percent of its revenues following the Russian invasion of the eastern part of the country.

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Brazil Abandons Troubled Cyclone-4 Program

Cyclone 4 first and second stages. (Credit: Alcantara Space)
Cyclone 4 first and second stages. (Credit: Alcantara Space)

It looks like the rumors I reported last month are true. Brazil has decided to pull out of its joint program with Ukraine to launch satellites aboard Cyclone-4 boosters from the Alcantara Launch Center.

“It is an accumulation of issues,” said Petronio Noronha de Souza, AEB’s director of space policy and strategic investments. “There have been challenges on the budget issues, on the technological aspects, in the relationship between Brazil and Ukraine and in the actual market for export that would be available. So it is a combination of things.”

In an April 14 interview at the Latin America Aero and Defense, or LAAD, show here, Noronha de Souza said a formal government announcement, likely from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the program’s stoppage was imminent.

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Is Brazil Ending Cyclone-4 Program With Ukraine?

Cyclone 4 first and second stages. (Credit: Alcantara Space)
Cyclone 4 first and second stages. (Credit: Alcantara Space)

A report out of Brazil says President Dilma Rousseff is preparing to end the long trouble and repeatedly delayed Cyclone-4 program with Ukraine.

The story, written by Roberto Lopes, the opinion editor of the Journal of Defence Forces, quotes a sourcein the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Russia Severing Ties With Ukraine on Dnepr, Zenit Launch Programs

Dnepr launch vehicle. (Credit: ISC Kosmotras)
Dnepr launch vehicle. (Credit: ISC Kosmotras)

Roscosmos officials made announcements this week that they would be suspending a joint program with Ukraine to launch Dnepr rockets and were no longer interested in buying Ukrainian Zenit boosters, deepening problems for that embattled nation’s space program and its struggling Yuzhmash factory.

Dneprs are converted SS-18 ballistic missiles that are converted into satellite launchers by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash launch vehicle manufacturer. The boosters are launched by the Moscow-based Moscow-based Kosmotras International Space Company, which is Russian-Ukrainian joint venture.

Russian media report three Dnepr launches scheduled this year will be carried out. However, The Moscow Times reports the future of the venture remains cloudy. It is possible the program will end, or Russia will convert the missiles to satellite launchers without Ukrainian participation.

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SpaceBillboard Selling Out of This World Advertisements

Credit: SpaceBillboard
Credit: SpaceBillboard

LEUVEN, Belgium (SpaceBillboard PR) — SpaceBillboard, a supporter of innovative space research, is set to launch the world’s first billboard in space in a milestone that marks the increasing importance of CubeSats in Space Exploration.

Researchers at KU Leuven University in Belgium came up with the novel idea of launching a real billboard into space to help fund their research on a new line up of NexGen satellites called CubeSats.

A CubeSat is small – about the size of a milk carton – and lightweight, which makes them cheaper to build and launch. A CubeSat is the perfect answer for universities and start-ups to get involved in space research, one of the bedrock platforms for research on advanced technology solutions.

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Will Sea Launch End Up in Brazil?

sea_launch_zenitRussia’s efforts to find a new home for its failure-prone Sea Launch company has taken officials to rising South American power — and charter BRICS member — Brazil.

That’s the word from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin anyway.

“A quite remarkable dialogue at the level of experts is currently in progress; possibly, the idea may take shape within the BRICS group, or in our bilateral relations with Brazil, of carrying out such joint launches and furnishing assistance to Brazil in developing its space industry and making its own spacecraft,” he said, adding that Brazil already had its own space site close to the ocean that would fit in well with such tasks.
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Cyclone-4 Development Not Affected by Ukraine Turmoil

Cyclone-4 first and second stages. (Credit: Alcantara Cyclone Space)
Cyclone-4 first and second stages. (Credit: Alcantara Cyclone Space)

Cyclone-4 Project Status Update
Via Alcantara Cyclone Space

The current events in Ukraine have not impacted the Cyclone-4 Project development. Currently, the Launch Vehicle development is progressing as scheduled, and it will be ready for delivery to Alcantara in the second half of 2015.

Cyclone-4 payload fairing separation test. (Credit: Alcantara Cyclone Space)
Cyclone-4 payload fairing separation test. (Credit: Alcantara Cyclone Space)

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Ukraine’s 2013 Year in Space Review

zenit_launch
Zenit launch from Baikonur

Ukraine had a mixed record in space in 2013. While the Dnepr rocket returned to service with a pair of successful launches after a two-year gap, one of two Zenit boosters ended up in a watery grave after it failed shortly after launch.

Ukrainian companies had better luck as a components supplier. Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares — which boasts a Ukrainian-supplied first stage — racked up two flawless flights. Meanwhile, the European Vega booster made a second successful flight with a Ukrainian fourth stage on board.

Meanwhile, a joint partnership with Brazil to launch the Cylcone-4 rocket from South America made progress even as it suffered additional schedule delays that have pushed back the maiden flight into 2015.

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Ukraine Looks to Extend Space Cooperation with U.S., China

Ukraine_logoSpace News has an extensive Q&A with Yuriy Boyko, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for Ecology, Natural Resources, Energy and Space. The interview primarily focuses on the nation’s space program, its joint Cyclone 4 launch vehicle program with Brazil, and its efforts to increase cooperation with the United States and China.

Some of the highlights:

  • Ukraine’s main launch vehicles include Zenit (Sea Launch, Land Launch), Dnepr (joint program with Russia), Cyclone 4 (joint program with Brazil), and the first stage structure for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares.
  • Ukraine spends between $400 million and $500 million on its space program mostly for science work, but receives about $600 million annually in revenues from commercial work;
  • Brazil and Ukraine have committed $1.5 million (split equally) over a three-year period to Cyclone 4, which should have its first test flight from the Alcantara Launch Center by early 2015;
  • The partners hope that South American countries with satellite programs will flock to the Alcantara facility on Brazil’s Atlantic coast;
  • The upper stage developed for the Cyclone 4 could be a good fit for the Antares rocket;
  • Boyko recently completed consultations with NASA and U.S. commercial space companies concerning cooperative programs, with the two governments establishing a framework for further cooperation;
  • There are no specific cooperative programs to announce yet between Ukraine and American government and private entities;
  • Ukraine would like to become involved in the International Space Station program;
  • Boyko says that Ukrainian specialists have extensive experience with radiation shielding technology, which could help the United States with human Mars and deep space missions;
  • Ukraine is consulting with China, which is very interested in developing large propulsion systems.

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Cyclone-4 Launch From Brazil Slips into 2015

The construction of the Cyclone-4 assembly and test facility. (Credit: HCA)
The construction of the Cyclone-4 assembly and test facility. (Credit: HCA)

Aviation Week reports the decade-long effort to launch Ukraine’s Cyclone-4 rocket from Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Center is going to take a little longer.

The inaugural flight has now slipped into late 2015 at the earliest, adding to what has already been years of delay. Meanwhile, costs of building the launch complex have nearly doubled and are approaching $1 billion.

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Brazil’s Cyclone-4 Project Hits Another Snag as Workers Laid Off

Ukraine's Cyclone rocket
Ukraine’s Cyclone rocket

Brazil’s decade-long quest to bring Ukraine’s Cyclone-4 rocket to the Alcantara Launch Center is reported to have hit another snag, this time due to financial problems at the Alcantara Cyclone Space (ACS) company. The Jorno do Brasil reports (via Google Translate):

According to sources close to the Alcantara Space Base, where the program is developed in the country, about two thousand [workers] contracted by ACS were discharged in the last two months. The scenery in this place is abandoned, as shown in photos uploaded to the Official Brazil. Most equipment has been rented and returned those remaining on the base are abandoned in the open air without any maintenance, according to the same sources….

Complaints received by the Journal of Brazil also relate to the subject of the work stoppage. According to the sources, to dismiss officials, heads of departments claimed that “it [layoffs] is happening because the company [ACS] has not paid the contractors.”

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Ukraine to Brazil: Come Up With More Money for Cyclone-4 Program

Ukraine's Cyclone rocket
Ukraine’s Cyclone rocket

A press release from the Ukrainian government:

Ukraine has called on Brazil to find financing in order to continue realization of the Cyclone-4 project.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov announced during a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil Antonio Patriota.

“An objectively successful project of our cooperation appears the Cyclone-4 Alcantara. The reliable realization of this project will contribute to increasing the authority of both your and our countries. In this complex situation the Government of Ukraine has approved a decision: for realization of this project to draw credit resources. We hope that the Brazilian side would use every opportunity to continue financing of their part of the project,” he said.

The release provides no details on precisely how much more Ukraine expects Brazil to put into the joint project, which began in 2002 with an expected first flight in 2006. The program has not launched a single rocket while suffering numerous delays and financial shortfalls. The maiden flight is now scheduled for sometime in 2014.

The launch vehicle is an enhanced version of the Soviet-era Cyclone-3 launch vehicle. It is designed to launch from Brazil’s Alcantara Space Center, which is located near the equator.

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Brazil Scales Back Launch Vehicle Plans

vls1_on_pad_2
By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Brazil has come out with a new strategic plan to guide its space efforts through 2021 that involves a significant change in its effort to develop a domestic satellite launch industry.

Brazil has scaled back an ambitious Southern Cross development program to focus on a series of smaller launch vehicles that appear to rely more on home-grown technology. The country also has forged a cooperative arrangement with Germany to develop a dedicated micro-satellite launch vehicle. Meanwhile, Brazil is continuing work on launching Ukraine’s Cyclone-4 rocket from the Alcantara Launch Center in 2014.
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