Chile Seeks to Boost its Space Program

Chile Seeks to Boost its Space Program

By Guillermo Saavedra/Diálogo
December 09, 2020

The Chilean government is boosting its space program with a new National Satellite System. The project, which Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced in October, will include the launch of three satellites and will also have three ground stations to receive data and information.

The initiative, led by the Chilean Air Force (FACh, in Spanish), coordinates and integrates activities of the Ministry of Defense, the FACh, and the Ministry of Sciences to promote scientific research and national industry development, and also to support search and rescue systems, maritime surveillance, the protection of natural resources, and climate and environmental monitoring.

“This network of three satellites will enable us to observe the Earth and our country with a broad spectral range, not only visual, but also with infrared. In addition, its orbit will be under our country’s sovereign control,” Piñera told the press.

“With these new satellites, ‘we will be able to pierce the clouds’ to analyze the captured images with different frequency ranges, even to detect objects larger than one meter, as well as [to detect] whether they have caloric emissions, or whether it’s an organic or inorganic matter, for example,” Colonel Claudio Alcázar, FACh Communications chief, told Diálogo.

The first satellite will be launched into space and will be operational within a year, replacing the functions of the Fasat-Charlie satellite, which completed its life span, the Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported. Launched in 2011, the Fasat-Charlie put Chile at the forefront of space presence in Latin America. But the country soon fell behind, overtaken by Peru, Bolivia, and even Venezuela, Héctor Gutiérrez, president of the Chilean Space Association, told the newspaper.

The project also envisions the manufacture and launch of two new satellites, one of which will be built in Chile. The three satellites will form a national satellite constellation. The program will also complement the information these satellites receive with access to other satellite constellations, Air Force Brigadier General Francisco Torres, head of FACh Space Affairs, explained.

“It’s crucial for our country to have autonomy over the information gathered with our own satellites […]. At the same time, it’s important to set up agreements with other countries that place their satellites over Chile when ours are in other parts of the world,” Brig. Gen. Torres told Diálogo.

Three ground stations located in Antofagasta, Santiago, and Punta Arenas will receive the information from these satellites and will provide information and data to an advanced geospatial data processing center. The center of operations will be located at the FACh’s Cerrillos Air Base, in Santiago.

The new system will also lead to the creation of seven micro-satellites with the participation of the defense sector, the academic arena, and the national industry, to contribute to Chilean technological development.