Creation of Chilean space agency: 43 years late

A recent article entitled “Chile Space Race”, published in an electronic newspaper by a journalist familiar with national space development, prompted us to express our collective reflection on the inexplicable delay in creating a national space agency through the Republic Act. It provides its own legal personality and assets, is responsible for all scientific and technological programs for the peaceful use of outer space, and is responsible for proposing and periodically updating the National Space Policy.

Chile's interest in accessing space has been known since the late 1950s, with an intergovernmental agreement with the US government and through NASA and the University of Chile. This initiative created the Center for Space Studies in Peldihue (the “Chile NASA” of the time), whose mission was to provide an operational base for monitoring satellites of the United States' space program, which was unfortunately sold to the Swedish Space Agency. .

Fortunately, the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile donated a small portion of the proceeds from the sale to Av. In 2010, the SUCHAI project was set aside to implement a space exploration laboratory in a new technical building in Beauchef. of Nanosatellites from the House of Studies.

Starting in 1980, through the Air Force, Chile created a Presidential Advisory Council dedicated to space affairs called the “Council of Space Affairs” (CAE), chaired by the Minister of National Defense and FACH with the Executive Secretary of the General Staff. The group was renewed in 1995, incorporating new universities and public bodies, but maintaining its two basic objectives: to develop a national space policy; Prepare a bill creating a space agency in Chile. Both of these tasks were accomplished by the CAE, which forwarded the two mandated texts to the President through the Ministry of National Defence.

See also  Astronaut Frank Rubio lost a prized tomato in space, but his colleagues found it

In 1995, when a bill published by then President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle was ready, fate tricked us into thinking that it was not ready to bear with us: the 50 kg scientific and experimental microsatellite “FASAT Alfa” failed in the extraction process. Its parent satellite. The failure of the satellite, as usual, raised the insurance premium, which allowed the launch of its near-twin “FASAT Bravo” in 1998. FASAT Bravo had a very short useful life due to structural failures of its batteries. Defunct in 2001.

In this context and with renewed vigor, President Ricardo Lagos Escobar appointed the undersigned Nelson Haddad on March 11, 2000, to assume the responsibility of the Undersecretary of Aviation, and subsequently, through Supreme Decree 0338 of July 17, 2001 of the National Ministry. Defense The Presidential Advisory Council, known as the “Chile Space Agency”, was created when Michel Bachelet was head of the Ministry of National Defense, leaving the commission's leadership to the former Undersecretary of Aviation.

In the short period between 2001 and 2002, the commission was tasked with preparing the first version of the National Space Policy and preparing the bill for the creation of the National Space Agency, which was achieved by sending a preliminary draft to MINSEGPRES in April 2002. The debate, unfortunately, led to the request for the preparation of evaluation studies responded to by DIPRES in May 2003, ultimately postponing the initiative for another 20 years to the current date.

The aforementioned Chilean Space Agency continued to function as a Presidential Advisory Council with almost non-existent resources (then $33 million per year) sufficient to operate an office with 3 dedicated full-time officers and administrative support. Smaller objectives such as an undersecretariat for space, aviation, oddly enough intergovernmental space agreements and the signing of a series of MoUs with several countries were not achieved. Also, an attempt was made to remove the function of this Advisory Committee from the National Security Area and transfer it to the Economy and EMT Sub-Secretariat through Supreme Decree 0144 of 2009. 6 made it possible to draw officers and some from service commissions.

See also  Depths of the Cosmos: James Webb Telescope Reveals Unprecedented Details of a Supernova

Unfortunately, in 2011 it was discovered that Decree 0144 was not in force: it was not published in the official gazette! This prompted the Economic Undersecretariat to close the Chilean Space Agency and return it to its parent unit, the Ministry of National Defense. As stated above, at the end of December 2011, Chile launched a new optical Earth observation satellite called “FASAT Charlie” (still operational at the end of 2023!) at a cost of US$72.5 million. Reserved Copper Act and administered by the Chilean Air Force.

So the spatial history of Chile continues: without achieving the functioning of a civil government created by law and with its own legal personality and assets¾ and depending on the functioning of the Presidential Advisory Commissions headed by the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications (DS 0148 and DS 0181), which in practice between 2014 and 2018 with a large number of 11 ministries has been assembled and is awaiting the operationalization of the new Ministry of Science and Technology with a consensus that it will be the definitive home for a new national agency. to space.

We come to the current period with the new creation of the Presidential Advisory Council, now called the “Space Policy Council”, under the leadership of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, parallel to the “Space Executive Committee”. Another 5 Ministries, through DS 24 of December 1, 2021 gazetted on March 15, 2022. Despite the great drive and development of the satellite programs of the Chilean Air Force, through the 5-year SNSat project and a cost of 120 million US dollars, which will undoubtedly place Chile within the space leadership of Latin America (after Brazil, Argentina and Mexico), the State of Chile has not achieved the operation of a civil space agency. The entire national and international civil space community, including academia, public and private services. It is sad to imagine how many international space programs and initiatives related to the peaceful use of space would have been cut short because the government had no civilian representatives in Chile and had no choice but to discuss and invite the Chilean Air Force. As witnessed by the Chilean Air Force, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and according to our information no specialist has devoted full time to space issues.

See also  Puerto Rican Marcos Perios will graduate as an astronaut in March: "a great milestone for Puerto Rican science"

At least, we are aware of the imminent update of the National Space Policy 2014-2020 by the Ministry of Science and Technology, but, we insist, without a space agency responsible for its monitoring and updating.

Is it possible that President Gabriel Boric will lead this effort? In this way, it is possible to fulfill the commitment to increase investment in science and technology to 1% of GDP, which will be an illusion, but we can be close.

  • The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect an editorial line or position. Counter.

  • To learn more about what's happening in the world of science and culture, join our cultural community El Mostradore's newsletter on these topics. Sign up for free Here.

Read more

Local News