Venezuela Launches its First Satellite

Venezuela's Satellite Simon Bolivar, also known as Venesat-1, was launched Wednesday at 12:25 pm Venezuelan time, from Xichang, China. It will be used to improve telecommunications and facilitate social and education projects.
Venezuela's first satellite, "Simon Bolivar," takes off. (Xinhua)

Mérida, October 29, 2008 (– Venezuela's Satellite Simon Bolivar, also known as Venesat-1, was launched Wednesday at 12:25 pm Venezuelan time, from Xichang, China. It will be used to improve telecommunications and facilitate social and education projects.

One of the main aims of the satellite is to bring communication, medicine, and education services to the most isolated communities.

"We want the entire country, the population in its entirety, to have access to communication and Internet," said Gladys Maggi, vice minister of Development in Science and Technology.

The satellite should broaden the transmission of radio and TV education and cultural channels, support internet connectivity in areas currently without access, bringing it to infocenters (government internet centres), CBIT (Bolivarian centres of computing and telematics), and libraries.

Satellite Education

A project called Cyber Robinson, which aims to extend the National Experimental University Simon Rodriguez, will use the satellite and a national fiber optic grid to "bring education to the roofs and windows of all Venezuelans," as the director of the University, Manuel Marina, said on Tuesday.

"[The project] will enable us to talk of a university for every Venezuelan."

It forms part of a bigger project, Simon of the People, which aims to see universities in all community spaces, so that education can be a constant element of growth and individual and community development, he explained.

Medicine will be brought to isolated communities using the satellite for transmitting and receiving radiographs, ultrasounds, mammograms, and so on.

South American Unity

Luis Marcano, vice minister of Planning of Science and Technology said that the satellite is a powerful element that will help strengthen the unity of Latin America.

"Its range will be from the north of the Caribbean down to the south of America, where we will integrate various nations in telecommunications, television images, radio sounds, and transmission of voice and information," he explained.

Such countries will need receptors and agreements with Venezuela in order to use the satellite.

"We have guaranteed not just internal communication but also between brother peoples in real time and without them having to pay for foreign satellite services," said Rodolfo Navarro from the Bolivarian Agency for Spatial Activities.

After the successful launch of the satellite, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, declared that the satellite is a "Socialist satellite, to construct socialism within Venezuela and to cooperate with other peoples, to stimulate our systems of solidarity, cooperation and integration."

The commander of the Air Base Capitán Manuel Rios, Antonio José Nuñez, emphasized that the satellite won't be used for military activity.

However, it will be used for territorial observation, in order to plan and make decisions, improve agricultural development, climate management, and for protection of biodiversity.

Technological Achievement

Venezuela will be the fourth Spanish speaking country with its own satellite, which Maggi, said, "brings [Venezuela] closer to technological sovereignty and independence as well as being an unprecedented event in Venezuela's history."

Nuris Orihuela, minister for Science and Technology said that imperialist countries believe everyone should conform to their technology, but "We are not accepting the imposition of technology [which would make us] rely on their manufacturers and their knowledge."

The project has cost over $406 million, which includes the launching rocket, two land stations and the television port, where the stations were constructed by Venezuela with Chinese technology.

The satellite itself has a life of 15 years and was constructed by the Chinese Academy of Spatial Technology and will arrive in its assigned orbit within 5 to 10 days.

Following its arrival in orbit, 36,500 kilometers from earth, there will be a time of testing and on December 20 CANTV (National incorporated telephone company of Venezuela) will receive the satellite services and will be the institution to administer its use.

The satellite is in a geo-stationary orbit, meaning that it orbits at the same speed of earth, therefore always directly above the same point. This orbit originally belonged to Uruguay, and through an agreement, Venezuela has arranged to use it, with Uruguay enjoying up to 10% of the communicational capacity of the satellite.

US Meddling

At the launch, Chavez accused the United States government of trying to thwart the project, explaining that a few hours ago they had requested the Chinese government suspend the launch because it was necessary to check the satellite due to a modification that would generate disturbance.

Chavez called it ridiculous and compared it to the time the US tried to stop an Iranian factory of bicycles in Venezuela, saying it was a uranium exportation project.

The satellite launch is the result of an agreement of Venezuela-China cooperation signed on November 1, 2005, which also included the transfer of knowledge about the operation of the satellite from Chinese to Venezuelan professionals.

China has been doing such launches since 1987 and so far has done 28 for other countries.