By: Denise Simon | Founders Code
A few months ago, Vice President Pence traveled to Latin America with a specific visit to Brazil to discuss the location of a U.S. military base in Brazil. President Bolsonaro has waffled somewhat on this possibility, however, it is advancing. The mission for both the United States and Brazil is to counter China and Russia’s military influence in Latin America. Truth be told, the Brazilian military high command is against this ambition unless Russia displays further aggression.
(Ummm, they already have.)
Anyway… under the guise of a space program, the U.S. and Brazil have finalized the agreement for a U.S. space technology/military program in Alcantara, Brazil.
This will be located at the Forca Aerea Brasileira, the Brazilian Air Force base in the Alcantara Launch Center. Equatorial launches are beneficial so close to the equator due to the speed of the earth’s rotation, saving at least 30% on fuel.
Scott Pace, executive director of the US National Space Council, said on 18 March at a Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) industry group event that the TSA could be signed later that day. The remaining hurdle is approval by Brazil’s Congress, David Logsdon, head of CompTIA’s Space Enterprise Council, told Jane’s after the event. Coincidently, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro is in Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump.
A TSA prevents unauthorised access to and transfer of protected technologies. US companies are interested in flying out of ALC due to its location for equatorial launches. Equatorial launches are advantageous as the Earth spins the fastest at the equator, giving launches an extra boost to reach orbit.
However, ALC’s remote location poses a challenge. Flying out of ALC would require US companies to first fly into Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo before connecting to a flight to ALC, adding an extra day of travel. An industry source told Jane’s that it is still challenging for US companies to close their business case with flying out of ALC due to the distance between the two countries, corruption, Bolsonaro’s mercurial personality, and the tendency of Brazilians to run hot-and-cold when dealing with the US.
However, the source said if a company can work out the logistics and partner with an honest local broker, the 30% efficiency savings for launching that close to the equator can be a major incentive.
Brazil can currently launch small rockets from this same base for what is known as microsatellites. Brazil is investing with partners an estimated $300 billion for the joint or multi-lateral launch business. When General Mattis was still the Secretary of Defense, he signed a Space Situational Awareness agreement during his own visit to Brazil. This is an effort to do real-time tracking of other rogue satellites, data of objects in space and debris.
Not to be overlooked, both Boeing and Lockheed Martin went to the Alcantara Space Center last December along with Vector Launch, Inc. to determine costs of payloads. Brazil appears to have a new corporation called Alada and yet another named Embraer SA to advance the aerospace programs along with seeking investors.