The Ambassador of Argentina to Malaysia, H.E Manuel Jose Balaguer Salas, writes on the how Argentina is reaching for the stars through a thriving aerospace industry that holds pride of place in Latin America, exclusively for International Business Review.
“Argentina is not only about football, beef, tango or great wines. The country has a long tradition in space activities and technologies that many are not aware of, and recently it is becoming one of the most important players in the Latin American aerospace industry.
A Tale of Flight
Argentina’s first activities in the space field go way back to 1961, when the National Commission for Space Research (CNIE) was established within the facilities of the Argentine Air Force. CNIE, working with local and international partners, carried out the first southern hemisphere scientific atmospheric physics using rockets and stratospheric balloons.
Together with the Argentine Institute of Aeronautics and Space Research, CNIE designed and constructed a family of one and two-stage sounding rockets, called the Orion, the Rigel and the Castor, which were launched from Chamical, in the Province of La Rioja.
Later, in 1991, the Argentine government established the National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE), as a civil entity responsible for space related activities, reporting directly to the President. Today, CONAE falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
CONAE drafted a National Space Plan for the use and exploitation of space science and technology with peaceful purposes, which identified several fields for development including ground infrastructure, satellite systems, information systems, access to space, institutional development and basic tasks.
CONAE and several other organisations such as the Argentine Space Technology Association (AATE), INVAP, Empresa Argentina de Soluciones Satelitales Sociedad Anónima (ARSAT), Centro de Ensayos de Alta Tecnología Sociedad Anónima (CEATSA) pursue new projects – pushing the limits of space science and technology.
Leading the Industry Forward
Argentina has launched a number of satellites in the past two decades: SAOCOM 1B (2020), SAOCOM 1A (2018), “Fresco” and “ “Batata” nanosatellites (2016), ARSAT-2 (2015), ARSAT-1 (2014), CUBEBUG-1 “Capitán Beto” and CUBEBUG-2 “Manolito” (2013), SAC-D (2011), SAC-C (2000), SAC-A (1998) and SAC-B (1996).
INVAP, an Argentine State company wholly owned by the Province of Río Negro in Patagonia, designs, integrates, constructs, and delivers equipment, plants and devices of various fields of technology.
The company operates in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa – delivering projects for nuclear, aerospace, chemical, medical, petroleum and governmental sectors. With six satellites of its own design and construction already in orbit, INVAP has won a privileged position in the international satellite technology scene. It is the only Latin American company capable of implementing full satellite projects, with launching being the exception.
Space technology is one of the most relevant areas in the company. Since 1996, all of the satellites launched by NASA on behalf of Argentina – their payloads as well as the ground satellite observation station at Falda del Carmen, Córdoba – have been designed and built by INVAP on a contract from CONAE.
INVAP also takes part in missions, providing solutions for any of the systems and subsystems involved in the design and development of both satellite platforms and their payloads.
In the late ‘90s, INVAP started work on the first radars fully developed in Argentina. Today, it designs, construct and maintain radars for multiple purposes. These are not only for military applications, but for commercial air traffic control, meteorology, navigation and image recording to be used in agriculture, natural resources, scientific research and emergency management.
INVAP is also the only Latin American company to develop secondary radars for air traffic control. They have been produced for the Argentine Air Force (FAA) and for the Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) and are certified by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO). INVAP is also currently developing a primary 3D radar for the Argentine Directorate of Military Industries (DGFM).
In the last years, INVAP has updated radars for the Argentine Army, providing digital technology for control, processing, viewing and remote-control applications. In addition to this, INVAP has developed and installed a navigation simulator called MELIPAL in most Navy Schools to train ship pilots to navigate by radar.
Argentina continues to make its mark in the world aerospace technology industry. Going from strength to strength – leveraging on partnerships and growing research capabilities, allowing the country to be better known in this field too.”