Santa Elena de Uairen, October 7th, 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- On Sunday, Venezuelan education and technology minister Manuel Fernandez signed a contract with China Great Wall Industry Corporation to build and launch the South American nation’s third satellite into space.
The craft will carry the name of 19th century Venezuelan independence leader Antonio Jose de Sucre.
Venezuela previously launched a communications satellite in 2008 and a first earth observation craft in 2012, named Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda respectively. All three projects were conducted through the China Great Wall Industry Corporation, though this is the first to be undertaken during Maduro’s presidency.
Earth observation satellites are used in monitoring agricultural activities and crops, the study of geological hazards, overseeing national security and borders, coastal protection, as well as for the search of new lands for government housing projects.
Former Venezuelan president made space exploration a priority in 2002, creating the Bolivarian Agency for Space Activities (ABAE) and corresponding Space Center in 2005. Prior to the launch of the Simon Bolivar satellite in 2008, over 70 Venezuelans travelled to China to receive operations training and witness the manufacturing process.
According to ABAE president Victor Cano, Venezuela has already trained over 200 people with satellite technology skills, and is in the process of building its own satellite manufacturing facility.
The Sucre satellite will reportedly be developed by Venezuelan and Chinese engineers as part of a joint effort.
However, the South American country’s ambitions in the final frontier don’t appear as competitive in nature as those that characterized the Cold War’s space race.
In an interview last year, Cano said, “As it is our government’s policy, the goal is to position ourselves as a regional bloc with the Latin America and the Caribbean region in different areas of knowledge…. [we] rely on other countries within the region, such as Argentina and Brazil, which have already built several satellites and have more years of experience than us. In addition, we also support other countries, such as Bolivia, that are starting to delve in the space industry. We seek to establish a relationship both to obtain new knowledge, as well as to provide new knowledge to the region.”
Shortly after Cano’s statement, in December of last year, Bolivia launched it’s first “Tupac Katari” telecom satellite with China’s help.
The unification of Latin America was a priority in Chavez’s policymaking, as was the the multipolarity of global power, regarding resources and access to information. Accordingly, one of ABAE’s founding principles is to “ensure that international treaties regarding the use and exposure of space material be respected.”
Last week Colombian vice president German Vargas cancelled the purchase of a US$250 million satellite for lack of funds, meaning Colombia must continue to buy information from other countries’ satellites.
In a live television broadcast, Maduro said Sunday, “The cultural, scientific, technological revolution is here, congratulations … Chavez launched Bolivar so high that he reached outer space and also Francisco Miranda, the second satellite, and now we are giving wings to the South American Liberator, Antonio Jose de Sucre, immortal Venezuelan.”