Will Alcântara Finally Stop Being the Spaceport of the Future?

Cyclone 4 launch pad under construction. (Credit: Alcantara Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Brazil’s decades-long effort to launch satellites from its underused Alcântara Launch Center could finally be bearing fruit.

On Monday, Brazil and the United States signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement that will allow American companies to launch orbital rockets from Alcântara.
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Brazil Pitches Alcantara Spaceport to Foreign Launch Providers

Cyclone_4 processing complex under construction at the Alcantara Launch Center in Brazil. (Credit: Alcantara Cyclone Space)

The Brazilian government has been trying to entice foreign launch providers to use the equatorial Alcantara Launch Center. Reuters reports:

Brazil’s defense minister said on Thursday that Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and other U.S. aerospace companies have expressed interest in launching rockets from its Alcantara military base near the equator and visited the site in December.

“They were very impressed,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told reporters. “They showed interest, but I can’t say whether it will materialize.”

Besides SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the Alcantara visit included smaller aerospace U.S. companies Vector Space Systems, which launches small satellites, and Microcosm, which focuses on providing low-cost access to space, an organizer of the trip said.

Rubens Barbosa, a former Brazilian ambassador to the United States who organized the visit to the base, said the U.S. companies were eager to use the Alcantara site.

Reuters reports that SpaceX denied interest in launching from the facility, whose location at about 2 degrees from the equator makes it ideal for launching communications satellites to geosynchronous orbit.

Alcantara is used for sounding rocket launches; it has never hosted an orbital launch. Brazil’s effort to develop a domestic launcher has not been successful. In August 2003, the program suffered a major setback when the explosion of a VLS-1 booster killed 21 people at Alcantara.

A joint Brazilian-Ukrainian effort to launch Cylcone-4 boosters from Alcantara collapsed in 2015 after a dozen years of effort. The project left behind partially completed launch infrastructure.

First Cyclone 4 Launch Slips into 2014

Ukraine’s Cyclone rocket

The first launch of the Ukrainian Cyclone 4 rocket from Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Center, originally set for next year, has been delayed:

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Ukrainian counterpart Victor Yanukovich agreed Friday on a plan to launch a jointly developed satellite from the South American nation in 2014….

That partnership dates from 2003, when Brazil and Ukraine embarked on the Cyclone 4 Alcantara project, which involves developing a launch vehicle to put satellites into orbit from the Alcantara base in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhao.

The $588 million venture is part of Brazil’s drive to join the club of countries capable of launching satellites, now limited to the United States, Russia, China, France, India, Israel, Japan and Ukraine.

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Alcantara Marks 29th Year, Looks Forward to Orbital Launches

ALCÂNTARA (March 6, 2012 — State of Maranhão PR) — The 29 years of foundation of the Alcantara Launch Center, in Maranhão, yesterday, were marked by priorities to be implemented this year: the completion of the process of technological modernization, eight campaigns rocket launches entry-level intermediary, the operation of the Tower Mobile Integration (TMI) and the first ground test of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV).

The anniversary ceremony was attended by the deputy governor of Maranhão, Washington Oliveira, Senator Edison Lobão Filho and the President of the Legislative Assembly of Maranhao, Arnaldo Melo, who have been awarded the title of Friend of the Alcantara Launch Center, a recognition of the personalities that CLA, in the context of their professional duties, have contributed to the success of the Brazilian Space Program.

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SpaceX Sets April 30 Launch Date for Dragon ISS Mission

Falcon 9 launch. (Credit: Chris Thompson)

The SATELLITE 2012 Conference is going on this week in Washington, DC. Jeff Foust sat in on some sessions today and posted updates on Twitter at @jeff_foust. He covered panels by launch providers and the four major satellite operators.

Launch Vehicle Providers Panel

SpaceX

  • Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX announces they have an April 30 launch date for their next Dragon mission to ISS; berth May 3.
  • Shotwell: they have almost an instantaneous launch window that day; launch opportunities only every 3 days.
  • Shotwell: will have 1st upgraded Falcon 9 (needed for comm’l sat launches) at VAFB by December, launch “shortly thereafter”

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Ukraine President: Cyclone-4 to Have Updated Schedule

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich. (Credit: State Space Agency of Ukraine)

Ukraine Space Agency PR — The project “Cyclone-4 – Alcantara” is on schedule, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych said in an interview with Ukrainian media in Sao Paulo.

“We now go on to the updated schedule, which developed in the last year,” said Victor Yushchenko. He added that the delay in project implementation has been linked to funding problems, press services report.

The head of state called the project profitable, and it will give the opportunity to develop the aerospace industry.

The President expressed confidence that the technologies used in Ukraine within the project “Cyclone-4 – Alcantara” can be used also in the national economy. “This technology, which we will gradually transfer to the national economy. This is the latest technology – something we very often do not have enough,” said Viktor Yanukovych.

Brazil to Boost Space Budget

The Gazeta do Povo reports on plans by the Dilma government to significantly increase space spending in Brazil, a boost that will allow for the launching of two new rockets:

The Brazilian Space Program will receive $ 2.1 billion federal investment over the next four years. Among the main goals are to launch four satellites and the construction of a rocket. Resources are provided in the Plan (PPA) from 2012-2015 and have the objective of restructuring the country’s space policy. Experts said the reorganization of the sector is strategic and can generate a leap of technological development in Brazil…In 2010, the budget was $ 300 million.

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Brazil, Ukraine Deepen Space Cooperation

Ukraine's Cyclone rocket

AEB PR — The space cooperation between Brazil and Ukraine has taken another important step. It was extremely productive meeting held on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB)  between, headed by its chairman, Marco Antonio Raupp, delegation visits and SDO Yuzhnoye Company of Ukraine, led by its director general, Alexander Degtyarev. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Institute of Aeronautics and Space Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA), the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs (SAE) and Alcântara Cyclone Space Company (ACS).

The meeting continued the understandings started during the visit of Brazilian technical committee, headed by the President of AEB, in early July, the Ukrainian industries involved in the program of bi-national company ACS, which will promote launches of Cyclone-4 rocket, Ukraine from the center of Alcantara, Brazil, introducing a safe and economical alternative in the global market for commercial launches.

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Alcantara Spaceport Slips as Russia Woos Ukraine on Vostochny

Ukraine's Cyclone-4 rocket

It looks like the long-delayed Brazilian-Ukrainian project to build a new spaceport in the South American country could take a bit longer than expected. The news comes as Russia has refused to become involved in the project and is wooing Ukraine to become involved in its new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East.

Interfax quotes Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov as saying that partners are looking to complete a new launch complex at Alcantara by 2014. This date would presumably delay the first launch of Ukraine’s Cyclone-4 launch from the equatorial spaceport, which had been scheduled for 2012.

Ukrainian Space Agency head Yuriy Alekseyev said that more funding is required to complete the project, according to the Ukrainian Journal.

“Today around $280 million has been spent and around $260 million more will be required… Unfortunately, Brazil has invested $50 million more in the project compared to Ukraine,” he said.

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Ukraine to Launch Rockets From Brazil

Ukraine plans to launch Tsyklon-4 rocket from Brazilian territory in 2010
Kyiv Post

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has confirmed that Ukraine’s Tsyklon (Cyclone)-4 launch vehicle will blast off from Brazil’s Alcantara space center in 2010.

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