Government approves the creation of Portuguese space agency Portugal Space

The government has approved the creation of the Portuguese space agency Portugal Space, based in the Azorean island of Santa Maria, and the Minister of Science promised to be in operation this month.

The terms for the constitution of Portugal Space were approved by the Council of Ministers and are established in a resolution authorizing the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), where the Space Office works, to associate with the National Innovation Agency, the one entity from the National Defense area and another from the Autonomous Region of the Azores, with the collaboration of the European Space Agency (ESA).

About a week ago, in statements, the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, said that Portugal Space would move forward this month with the approval of its statutes and the appointment of its director, who will be foreign.

The Portuguese space agency will have its headquarters in Santa Maria, where a microsatellite launching base will be built, as well as facilities in Lisbon and elsewhere in the country, said Manuel Heitor, who in December 2018 also made statements, assumed that Portugal Space should start operating until March 2019.

At the time, the minister said that one of the missions of the Portugal Space will be to promote “new activities and businesses” in the space sector, in particular in the observation of the Earth with small satellites, and “to facilitate a greater participation of Portugal in the European programs” of ESA and the European Union.

The idea, according to Manuel Heitor, is “to stimulate new industries, new companies and create qualified jobs in Portugal” in the launch and manufacture of small rockets and satellites.

The State, he said, will invest through the FCT between 500 thousand euros and 1 million euros to guarantee the agency’s “start-up costs”, including the hiring of ten specialized technicians, and that the objective will be “to attract financing European and of the companies “to support the operation of Portugal Space.

Manuel Hector hopes that the space agency will boost the national goal of 2030 to have a thousand new jobs in the sector and a corporate investment of 400 million euros. Currently, the turnover of Portuguese companies in the aerospace sector is around 40 million euros per year.

For the minister, it will make sense that the headquarters of Portugal Space, in a place on the island of Santa Maria to be defined by the Regional Government of the Azores, is located near facilities where ESA satellite monitoring services already operate.

On the island of Santa Maria will be built the already announced spaceport for launching microsatellites, an initiative that started from the Government.

It is expected that, according to the timetable set, the first small satellite launches will begin in the spring or summer of 2021, after the contract for the installation and operation of the base will be signed in June 2019 with the consortia ‘winners’.

The Portuguese space agency, which will be in charge of coordinating, in conjunction with the Regional Government of the Azores, the launching of small satellites, is one of the pillars of the national strategy for the space sector – “Portugal Space 2030”.

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