The Space Operations Center (COPE) is a unit under the Brazilian Air Force’s Aerospace Operations Command (COMAE), with facilities in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. COPE monitors all military satellite operations. The center’s operations are conducted jointly with the Brazilian Army and Navy through a multidisciplinary team.
Its commander, Brazilian Air Force Major General Rodrigo Alvim de Oliveira spoke with Diálogo during the Space Conference of the Americas, held at the headquarters of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, Florida, January 30-31, 2023.
Diálogo: Why is it important for Brazil to participate at the Space Conference of the Americas?
Brazilian Air Force Major General Rodrigo Alvim de Oliveira, commander of the Space Operations Center: It’s important because it allows us to strengthen the relationships between Brazil, U.S. Space Force, U.S. Space Command, SOUTHCOM, and all the neighboring countries in Latin America.
Diálogo: How is COPE working the interoperability concept?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: COMAE is a joint command. More precisely it is Brazil’s first permanently activated joint command, integrated by Navy and Army personnel.
Diálogo: Why do you think it’s important for military forces to talk about space and security?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: Our job is to protect our assets in the space domain and support our partners. For the Brazilian Air force, space is a priority and we wish to strengthen our relationship with the United States and with all the countries in Latin America. We are seeking to increase launch capabilities by attracting commercial companies to operate from Alcântara Space Center.
Diálogo: How do Brazil and the United States cooperate in terms of space?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: Brazil signed the Artemis accords with the United States in 2021. We became the first Latin American country to partner in a program that establishes a common vision for governance in the civil exploration and use of outer space, which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities. We have also a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) sharing agreement, which gives us the ability to share information about space objects and protect our assets. In addition, we have an agreement to develop scientific research.
Diálogo: What is new in terms of space technology?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: We recently bought a couple of radar imaging military satellites. We have a geostationary telecommunications satellite, and now we have two imagery satellites on low orbit.
Diálogo: How can space technology help to counter security threats in the country?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: Through space we can monitor the forest environment, illegal activities, including illegal fishing in our sea, so we can work together with other government agencies to improve security at our borders and within our own country.
Diálogo: How does Brazil cooperate with the region, especially with South American nations in terms of space security?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: We don’t have any specific space cooperation agreement with the region, including our neighboring countries. However, Brazil offers a Space 100 course where we invite all of the other countries to participate, as the course provides an introductory educational level to the space environment and space systems. I hope in the future that we will offer more formation and training, and maybe generate cooperation for communications and images sharing with neighboring countries.
Diálogo: What is your biggest concern for the future in term of space projects?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: We are seeking to develop the SSA capability in Brazil. We can acquire our own monitoring information for space objects. Currently we rely on information with agreements with other countries that help us. However, we want to have our own capability to monitor space objects to allow us to protect our assets and continue to provide our services in space.
Diálogo: Can you pinpoint lessons learned from your experience as commander of COPE? What legacy do you intend to leave to your successor?
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo: It has been a privilege to work on the development of military space doctrine, using cutting-edge technology and highly motivated people. I hope to leave a center of excellence, with an established and strong doctrine, and with the capacity to protect Brazilian space assets, and guarantee the peaceful use of space for the benefit of society, the government, and the Brazilian Armed Forces.