Mérida, May 31st 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government signed an agreement with China last Thursday to build and launch a second satellite, this time for land observation. The satellite, according to Venezuela’s Minister for Science, Technology and Intermediate Industries, Ricardo Menendez, will aid in environmental management, urban planning, agricultural activity, climate and climate change monitoring, containment of the advance of desertification, and attending to and mitigating extreme conditions.
“We’re going to have a satellite that will enable us to monitor the national territory twenty-four hours a day, something which has enormous potential in terms of providing assistance in extreme situations, such as those provoked by the heavy rains,” Menendez said. Heavy rains over the last six months in Venezuela have caused flooding, destroyed houses, caused land falls and the collapse of bridges and roads.
The government is projecting that the second satellite, VRSS-1 (Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite) will cost $US 140 million. The money will come from the National Development Fund, which is a fund for investing petroleum resources in socio economic causes.
VRSS-1 will be launched in October 2012 from China, and will be built in China as well. It is atypical in that while most satellites have two observation cameras, this one will have more. Its life span is five to six years, according to Menendez.
The First Satellite’s Impact So Far
Venezuela launched its first satellite, known as Venesat-1 or “Simon Bolivar”, in October 2008, from Xichang, China. This satellite is primarily being used to link in more isolated communities, and provide them with medicine, communication, and education services. It has also helped with telephone and internet access, and through agreements with other countries, is strengthening Latin American unity. Its range extends from the Caribbean Sea down to the bottom of South America.
Manuel Fernandez, of state-owned telecommunications company CANTV, speaking on national television yesterday, said that the Simon Bolivar satellite had enabled 1.9 million new users to connect to internet and phone services. The 2,900 remote antennas installed so far (of a total of 16,000 planned by the government) are assisting hundreds of schools, 100 government markets (Mercals), and 150 army border protection bases, he said.
The first satellite project cost $US 406 million, including the launching rocket, two land stations and a television port. It was the result of an agreement signed between Venezuela and China in 2005. It is managed by CANTV, and shares Uruguay’s orbit, following an agreement between Venezuela and Uruguay.
Chinese and Venezuelan experts, together with the Bolivarian Agency for Space Activity, have also been drawing up construction plans for a satellite factory in Venezuela, scheduled for completion in 2013. Menendez said the factory is for small and medium sized satellites and is under construction in Borburata, Carabobo state.
The factory and the two satellites are part of the government’s aim of “technological sovereignty” and ending the country’s dependence on advanced technology produced outside Latin America.