President of the Portuguese Space Agency receives medal for scientific merit

On the Portuguese Space Agency's 5th anniversary, the Minister of Science honoured Ricardo Conde with the medal for scientific merit. The organisation also presented the Guidance and Strategy Council, an advisory body that will contribute to defining the Agency's lines of action and its actions.

The president of the Portuguese Space Agency received the Medal of Scientific Merit this Monday, March 18, from the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education. Elvira Fortunato wanted to distinguish Ricardo Conde’s work and that of the organisation he leads in promoting space as a fundamental tool at the service of the economy and society, contributing to advancing knowledge and space exploration.

For the Minister of Science, “the Agency has been strengthening the foundations of a scientific culture, based on a significant set of educational activities and the promotion of industrial training, contributing to a more technological, innovative and sustainable country, as part of the major European space policies and programs”.

Ricardo Conde’s award took place during the Portuguese Space Agency’s 5th anniversary ceremony, which also saw the presentation of the organisation’s Guidance and Strategy Council (COE). This is an advisory body that will have the task of advising the organisation on the definition of the Agency’s lines of action, and delivering opinions or recommendations on its plan of activities.

The new body, whose members were approved at the Agency’s last General Assembly for a five-year term, is composed of Teresa Lago, astronomer and former Portuguese delegate to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Peter Martinez, the Secure World Foundation’s executive director, Major General Filipe Arnaut Moreira, a specialist in geopolitics and security, Filipe Duarte Santos, a university professor with an extensive background in the field of the environment and climate change, Ana Santos Pinto, executive director of the Portuguese Institute of International Relations, Rita Sá Machado, director-general of Health, and Simonetta de Pipo, a university professor in the field of space and former director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

“From the start, the Agency has argued that space is present in every aspect of our daily lives. The choice of COE members is in line with this multidisciplinarity”, says Ricardo Conde, president of the Portuguese Space Agency. “The Council brings together a wide range of knowledge and perspectives, from those more directly linked to space, such as its sustainability from outer space and astronomy, to geopolitics, defence, security and even health. It’s a diverse body that considers the inclusion of national and international personalities”, he adds.

The anniversary ceremony of the Portuguese Space Agency took place on Monday evening in Lisbon and brought together more than a hundred players from the national and international space sector, including the President of the Regional Government of the Azores, José Manuel Bolieiro, the Army Chief of Staff, Mendes Ferrão, the Secretary of State for Justice, Pedro Tavares, and the Regional Secretary of the Azores, Paulo Estevão. Also present were the director-general of EUSPA, the Portuguese Rodrigo da Costa, as well as Giorgio Saccoccia, representing the director-general of ESA, and Hermann Ludwig Moeller, president of the European think thank ESPI.

Five years of “significant growth in the sector”

Looking back, Ricardo Conde, who was appointed president of the Portuguese Space Agency in September 2020, following the departure of Italian-German Chiara Manfletti, says that the organisation has been fulfilling its mission since the beginning: “The Portuguese space sector predates the creation of the Agency by more than two decades, but it is clear that there is a before and after March 18, 2019. For five years, we have been working daily to build the capacity of Portuguese industry and academia, which are increasingly present in international missions and projects, but also in a clear commitment to the new generations, creating challenges through unique university competitions at European level, thus boosting the motivation of our young people”.

The statistics confirm the capacity building and growth of the space sector in Portugal which, since the launch of the Portugal Space 2030 Strategy in 2018 and the creation of the Agency, has seen the addition of 34 new companies and four new research centres. “There is a very significant economic impact that translates not only into financial profitability, but also in attracting foreign direct investment and creating jobs”, says Ricardo Conde.

The ability to attract Foreign Direct Investment is also significant, reflecting the Portuguese Space Agency’s increasingly close work with AICEP. Of the 34 new companies created since 2019, eleven are subsidiaries of international companies and five of these were registered in 2023. “It’s interesting to note that only two of these were established in Lisbon, with the rest having been created in Faro, Coimbra and São Miguel, in the Azores”, says the president of the Portuguese Space Agency.

With the strengthening of the capacity of national industry and academia, 2024 will be “a year of confirmation of the strategy launched in 2018”, with the start of construction of the infrastructure to support the return point and access to space in Santa Maria and the launch of the national GeoHUB. “We’re talking about two areas that are absolutely crucial for the development of the space sector, not just nationally, but also in Europe”, says Ricardo Conde. “On the one hand, Europe needs to ensure its independence in terms of access to space and new capabilities for returning missions. On the other hand, we need to ensure that Portugal is at the forefront of an open data policy in which everyone can benefit from Earth observation data for land management and to address the fight against climate change and the preservation of the oceans”, he explains.

“In addition, we have created a new way of bringing space to a wide audience in Portugal”, he continues. As an example, the European Rocketry Challenge (EuRoC) was created in 2020 and Astronaut for a Day in 2022. More recently, in March 2024, CubeSat Portugal was launched, a new challenge for Portuguese Higher Education students, with registration opening on June 7.

Ricardo Conde emphasises the work carried out by “an extremely professional team with a great spirit of mission” who, since 2019, “has set the agenda and the pace of space activities in our country, achieving high international recognition”. “Now we have long-awaited new challenges that are beginning to take shape and that will set the agenda for the coming years. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s good to see that the ecosystem is full of life”, he concludes.

Portugal Space
19 of March, 2024