Brazil an ‘ideal launch location’ for US rockets

on Mar19
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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasts off on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, carrying the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex-41.

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasts off on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, carrying the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41.

The U.S. signed an agreement that would allow American rocket companies to operate from Brazil, possibly unlocking a operations base that has sat dormant for many years, the State Department said Tuesday.

An old rocket complex near Brazil’s Atlantic coast, called Alcantara, sits about 140 miles south of the Earth’s equator, making it a prime location for launching satellites, a $260 billion business. That’s because missions from the equator region often require less fuel.

“After 20 years of talks we are finalizing a technology safeguards agreement to allow U.S. companies to conduct space launches from Brazil,” President Donald Trump said Tuesday at a press conference with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. “Because of the location, tremendous amounts of money would be saved.”

Alcantara has also drawn recent interest from U.S. space companies. CNBC has reported that in December 2017, representatives for five rocket companies visited the base, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Vector and Microcosm. While SpaceX did not share a continued interest in the Brazilian launchpad, and Microcosm could not be reached for comment, the other three companies were still considering the Alcantara option.

“Put very simply, the flights are a lot shorter,” Trump said. “Brazil’s proximity to the equator makes it an ideal launch location.”

A launch from a latitude much farther north — such as NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — requires rockets to change direction so satellites can reach the equator. The same satellites launched from Alcantara would save as much as 20 percent to 30 percent in fuel, analysts estimate.



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