The Portuguese space agency is expected to start operating until March and will have its headquarters in the Azorean island of Santa Maria, where a microsatellite launching base will be built, said today.
Portugal Space, as the agency will be called, will promote “new activities and business” in the space sector, in particular in the observation of the Earth with small satellites, and “facilitate greater participation of Portugal in European programs” of the European Space Agency ESA) and the European Union, said Manuel Heitor.
The idea, according to the minister, is “to stimulate new industries, new companies and create qualified jobs in Portugal” in the launch and manufacture of small rockets and satellites. The information gathered by the microsatellites could be applied in precision agriculture, maritime safety and the city register, he said.
The holder of the science and technology portfolio hopes that the space agency Portugal Space will boost the national target of 20,000 new jobs in the sector and an investment of 400 million euros by companies. Currently, the turnover of Portuguese aerospace companies is around 40 million euros per year as a result of Portugal’s participation in ESA projects, Manuel Heitor said.
The minister also set as a target the funding for Portugal of 320 million euros of the new European space program, which has a budget of around 16 billion euros for the period 2021-2027.
“For this, we need a professional body that allows us to go beyond what is currently being done by the FCT Space Group,” stressed Manuel Heitor, to justify the creation of the Portuguese space agency.
The state 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, he said, pointing out that the objective will be “to attract European funding and the companies” to support the operation of Portugal Space.
The Portuguese space agency will be headed by an international expert, to be selected by competition, and the headquarters will be located on the island of Santa Maria, in a place to be defined by the Regional Government of the Azores. For Manuel Heitor, it will make sense that it is located close to facilities where ESA satellite monitoring services already operate.
On Santa Maria Island will be built the already announced spaceport for the launch of microsatellites, an initiative that started from the Government.
It is expected that, according to the timetable set, the first launches of small satellites 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 consortiums ‘winners’.
The Portuguese space agency, which the Minister of Science promised to be completed by the end of 2018 after a working group presented an “institutional and financial” proposal, is one of the pillars of the national strategy for the space sector – “Portugal Space 2030 “.
The announcement of the creation of Portugal Space is taking place today in Coimbra, during a meeting on the future of the Portuguese space sector, the “Portugal Space 2030“, attended by ESA Director General Jan Wörner from the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, and the Regional Secretary for the Sea, Science and Technology of the Regional Government of the Azores, Gui Menezes.