SPACE DOMAINS // SPACE Transportation
Santa Maria is located in the eastern group of the Azores and is the southernmost island in the archipelago. A prime location to establish a spaceport for launching towards the south to Low Earth Orbits (LEO).
Low Earth Orbit is particularly attractive for Earth Observation activities, which are experiencing a period of exponential growth.
A study released in May 2020 reveals that Earth Observation activities represent a turnover of 3.3 billion euros, employing around 16,200 people. And the sector is expanding as Space data becomes more and more integrated into solutions and services provided to many other industries.
LEO will become more and more appealing also for telecommunication constellations as resilience in communication becomes a must, even more so in outmost regions which cannot be serviced by terrestrial solutions.
Following a Request for Interest (RFI), issued by Portugal in September 2018, fifteen companies declared a keen interest in having space launch facilities on Santa Maria due to the mentioned attractivity of the location. Because of this compelling industrial potential, Portugal and the Regional Government of the Azores decided to create the Azores International Satellite Launch Programme (AISLP), a competitive dialogue process allowing companies to compete for the establishing of an open spaceport on the island of Santa Maria.
Due to a high compelling industrial potential, Portugal and the Regional Government of the Azores decided to embark on the Azores International Satellite Launch Programme (AISLP).
In preparation for the first launch and during the entire lifetime of the spaceport testing facilities for rocket engines and launcher stages will be needed. These plants will be used for quality testing before launch, but also to verify any modifications or upgrades made by companies to their launchers as they strive to maintain and increase their competitiveness. The test facilities will be located in the existing infrastructure, which will be refurbished and upgraded, not far from the airport.
The operation and use of these test facilities will require highly skilled personnel and contribute to an even distribution of workload throughout the year in Santa Maria Island, offering the inhabitants a more stable professional situation.
The AISLP process is led by the Regional Government, supported by Portugal Space, which provides both technical expertise, as well as legal and business advice. Furthermore, the Agency gives financial support to the project by activating the agreement signed between MCTES and ESA.