The Chilean Air Force (FACh) launched its FASat-Delta satellite, a milestone that initiates the implementation of its National Satellite System (SNSat). The device left for space from the U.S. Space Force’s Vandenberg Base in Santa Barbara, California, aboard the Falcon 9 rocket transport module of U.S. company SpaceX.
“Thanks to FASat-Delta, Chile will improve the monitoring of its borders and the use of its air, land, and maritime space, and will improve the monitoring of the impact of global warming,” Guillermo Holzmann, defense analyst and academic at the University of Valparaíso, told Diálogo on July 17. “In defense, the technological upgrade of this satellite is aimed at identifying with greater resolution and accuracy those who violate our sovereignty.”
The satellite’s separation from its mothership occurred smoothly as planned, one hour and twenty minutes after launch on June 12. After its release into space, it began the automatic configuration process.
FASat-Delta is an optical observation satellite with a resolution of 72 centimeters. It will allow the acquisition of images with global coverage, with capacity for shared use with the main provider of the Chilean SNSat project, the FACh said in a statement. Together with the FASat-Charlie satellite, this new instrument complements the SNSat observation capabilities.
The launch was monitored by members of the FACh high command gathered at the institution’s Aerial Photogrammetric Service, located at the Pudahuel Air Base in Santiago, and by authorities of the ministries that make up the Chilean Space Policy Council, which work together for the implementation of the National Space System.
General Hugo Rodríguez, FACh commander, and FACh Brigadier General Luis Felipe Sáez, Space director of the institution, in addition to a delegation of Chilean scientists, representatives of the Division of Technological Development and Industry, and the Chilean Undersecretary of Defense, among other authorities, followed the operation from the United States.
“This is a huge achievement that will mark the beginning of a new era in the field of geospatial information,” Chile’s Minister of National Assets Javiera Toro told daily La Nación. “[We will have] at our disposal more, better, and timely information of the national territory, democratizing information that previously had to be purchased from other countries.”
Vision in sync
“Chile shares with the United States a common vision regarding space as a strategic area and a fundamental factor for national development,” the FACh told Diálogo in a statement. “Chile will not manage to be a developed country without the use of space as a resource. The challenge is to incorporate the space variable into the national development equation.”
“The United States contribution to Chile’s space plans has to do with access to technology and improved communications and photography systems,” Holzmann said.
FASat-Delta is the first of 10 satellites that will form the SNSat constellation and will complement the work of FASat-Charlie, currently in orbit. It is also one of the three 100-kilogram mini-satellites with a multispectral camera, representing a significant change in technology, since it has twice the resolution of FASat-Charlie.
“With this satellite launch and with the cooperation of the United States, there is clearly an important advance that for the FACh means a relevant technological leap in terms of monitoring, processing capacity, and image download,” Holzmann said. “It also increases the capacity to generate information cooperation with Chile’s partner countries in the technological, food, agricultural, oceanographic, and in terms of defense, which is key considering the capabilities that China installed in orbits close to ours and that are monitored from Argentina.”
Chile’s National Space Policy, which is coordinated by the ministries of Science, Defense, National Assets, Transport, and Telecommunications, together with the FACh, contemplates the rapid construction of three national space stations in the regions of Antofagasta, Metropolitan, and Magallanes — in northern, central, and southern Chile, respectively — which will download data and images from the satellites. The stations will account for the images captured with the support of human and artificial intelligence analysis.