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Brazil to Cancel Rocket Launch Agreement with Ukraine
04/09/2015 - 08h39
BRASILIA BRANCH DIRECTOR
After nearly 12 years of delays, the Brazilian government decided to cancel the bilateral agreement for the launch of Ukrainian rockets with commercial satellites from a base in Alcântara, in the Brazilian State of Maranhão.
The two governments have spent approximately R$ 1 billion (US$ 328 million) in the failed venture, splitting the bill.
Folha learned that the decision was made by President Dilma Rousseff based on a report by an inter-ministerial group in January, but has not yet communicated the decision to Kiev.
The claim was that the cost of the satellite launcher, Cyclone-4, may have become too high in the current scenario of fiscal contraction. The project was always costly: it was predicted that it would bring about losses for 20 years. Officially, until Ukraine is informed, the agreement is maintained.
Thus, the door has been reopened to a negotiation that has long interested the US: to use the Alcântara facilities for commercial purposes. An agreement was signed in 2000 but never concretized, because it set out that Americans could use the base, but would not willingly share their technology.
Alcântara is an object of desire due to its equatorial position – most communications satellites orbit in parallel to the equator, so less fuel is spent on its release. Europeans, for example, launch satellites from French Guiana.
As Rousseff is in the process of rapprochement with the US government in the wake of the scandal where she found herself spied upon, this subject could only recently be resumed.
The Russian diplomacy, according to what Folha learned, had also been quietly pressing Brazil to abandon the agreement with their Ukrainian rivals. The Russians may even offer launchers.
Cyclone-4 is a distant child of the Soviet Union's space program that was in Ukrainian hands after the dissolution of the communist empire in 1991.
It was offered to Brazil in 2003 to launch in 2007. Nothing happened. In 2006, a binational company was put together to run the project, called ACS (Alcantara Cyclone Space), scheduled for release in 2010.
Due to lack of funds and a territorial dispute with Afro-Brazilian slave-descendants, called quilombolas, the deal plodded along–the last forecast was to launch the rocket in 2015.
So far, almost half of the works are completed at the base, and the Ukrainians say they have almost finished the rocket.
In addition, since 2014 the European country has been involved in a civil war with pro-Russia separatists, which does not inspire political confidence.
The Cyclone-4 program was the creation of the former Minister of Science and Technology, Roberto Amaral, who represented Brazil in the binational ACS until 2011. He has always been criticized by the FAB (Brazilian Air Force), which has traditionally managed the Brazilian space program.
According to the military, Cyclone-4 withdrew investments from national projects, which had already been suffering losses since 2003, when a fire in Alcântara killed 21 technicians working in the VLS-1 model.
Since then, the Brazilian space program is stuck. The military also plan to launch the VLS-1, but the design of the rocket is obsolete and there is a new generation of launchers currently being studied.
Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA
|The Cyclone-4 rocket in Ukraine|