Security concerns prompt Brazil to invest R$1bi in first satellite

The French-built satellite will be launched in 2016 and there are plans for a second artifact
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

In the aftermath of the revelations of NSA spying on Brazil last month, Dilma Rousseff will sign a R$1bi ($450mi) contract to build the country's first own satellite next month.

Currently, Brazil does not have satellites of its own but leases eight satellites operated by foreign companies. The idea is that the satellite, which will be managed in the country, will have dedicated bands to protect the transfer of priviledged information that may impact on national security while boosting the broadband capacity of the country.

With the satellite, the military band will see a ten-fold increase in terms of data transfer speeds and storage over the current setup, currently provided by a Mexican company. The equipment will also enable internet access to some 2,000 municipalities in remote locations which are still digitally excluded. 

Talks around the acquisition of the satellite started in 2005, but the project never materialized due to conflicts of interest involving government departments and ministries. Last year, Visiona, a joint venture between aerospace firm Embraer and state-owned telecoms company Telebras, was created to manage the satellite-related projects.

Tender winners Thales Alenia Space e Arianespace will produce the first Brazilian satellite in France and both companies have commited to do what it takes to avoid data leaks and unauthorized sharing after the NSA scandal emerged. The equipment will be launched from French Guiana in April 2016.

The contract also includes a technology transfer agreement that will enable Brazilian companies to produce a national satellite from 2021. At that point, the government will buy a second equipment set, according to Telebras.

The plan is to launch the second satellite from the Alcantara base in Maranhão, in the northeast of the country but the government wants to mitigate against previous failures such as the premature launch of a satellite launch vehicle in 2003, which killed 21 scientists onsite.

To that end, about 100 Brazilian technicians will be following the first production effort in France, so that qualified personnel will be in place to work on the second artifact.

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