AEROS will be Portugal’s second satellite in space

New legal framework allows the launch of Portugal's second satellite this Monday, 4 March. AEROS is a project by Thales Edisoft Portugal and CEiiA, in consortium with a dozen national organisations.

AEROS, which is expected to be Portugal’s second satellite, is scheduled to be launched this Monday, 4 March, from Vandenberg Space Base in California (USA) aboard a SpaceX rocket. A launch made possible by Portugal’s new legal framework for the space sector, namely the new insurance scheme for command and control operators of space objects, in force since September 2023.

With a total investment of 2.78 million euros, of which 1.88 million euros comes from public funding, AEROS falls into the nanosatellite classification (30cmx10cm and 4.5kg). The satellite mission is to study the oceans, seeking to maximise scientific and economic synergies between Space and the Ocean.

Entirely developed in Portugal, in a project that began in 2020 with the American MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) cooperation, AEROS will orbit at an altitude of 510 km and be capable of circling the Earth every 90 minutes. The command centre for the new Portuguese satellite is located at the Santa Maria Island Teleport in the Azores, where the images will be recorded, and then processed in Matosinhos.

The consortium’s leaders point out that this launch represents Portugal’s return to space 30 years after the launch of PoSAT-1. Sérgio Barbedo, CEO of Thales Edisoft Portugal, said, “this initiative has significantly positioned Portugal on the map of global space exploration and scientific advancement”.


Portugal as a flight nation

PoSAT-1 was launched 30 years ago, but this gap is not synonymous with stagnation – on the contrary. Portugal has developed a critical capacity over the last decades, and the AEROS, and others that will be launched this year, reflects the maturity that the sector has reached”, says Ricardo Conde, president of the Portuguese Space Agency.

José Rui Felizardo, CEiiA’s CEO, recalls that Portugal is already a nation with a presence in space since it has “one of the two very high resolution (VHR) satellite operators in Europe“, but he emphasises the importance of the moment: “We are building a complete value chain from Portugal to become one of the main players in space within three years”, he says in a statement issued by the consortium.

Commenting on the importance of the new satellite as a demonstration technology, Ricardo Conde believes that the project will have “an applicational value”. “I would very much welcome AEROS becoming part of the dynamic development of new technological capabilities that we are building in Portugal, aiming to create platforms for promoting new space-based services and developing new sensors for new data that can be made widely available”.

ISTSat-1, a university satellite developed in Portugal, is also due to be launched later this year and should be launched on the maiden flight of Arianne 6, the European Space Agency’s new rocket, scheduled for July this year.

Further developments

For the president of the Portuguese Agency, completing these two projects will be fundamental because of the path that has been taken, both at an operational level but also in the whole licensing process, which for the first time is taking place in Portugal. This process “opens the door for making everything easier from now on, namely for the 30 satellites that Portugal wants to launch by 2026”.

“There is technological development and knowledge, there is international cooperation, and as with other industrial processes, there has been a lot of work by various organisations, both the Portuguese Space Agency and Anacom, for this initiative to be successful and become a reality”, says Ricardo Conde. The Agency’s president also remembers the importance of the launch services tendering process conducted by AEROS, meaning that this knowledge of the demand for launch services now exists in Portugal.

Portugal Space
4 of March, 2024