Space and Technology
An effort to find out how key spinoff technologies from the space sector help advance new space agencies and economies.
When it comes to space and technology, a lot of people ask why all the effort for space when we have so much to solve here on Earth. Reality is that a lot of technology we use today, was derived from space exploration based advancements.
The Interplanetary Initiative research investigates the concept of technology transfer, in order to find ways to aid the increase in participation of nations with poor accessibility to space. The research is trying to bridge the gap between all the published information about spinoff technology currently available in the United States thanks to NASA, and the lack of information on this subject from emerging spacefaring nations around the world.
One of the main objectives of these efforts is to further understand the positive and negative impacts of space technology, in order to better inform the government with their decision-making when it comes to the space sector in developing countries.
Some of the nations picked to focus on, out of a comprehensive list around the world includes Ecuador, South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
Most of my efforts were focused on Ecuador
Before this research, I had no knowledge of any space agency in Latin America, which speaks heavily on the need for this type of research since I was born and raised in the Caribbean. Ecuador has a non-profit civilian space agency named EXA, which was established on November 1, 2007, in Guayaquil. It’s an independent research and development institution, in charge of the administration of their civilian space program. Their mission is to push forward the development of science in their country, to conduct space research, and to monitor atmospheric and space weather.
I started by reading through some research papers on space related topics involving Ecuador, such as “Decaying Lava Extrusion Rate at ‘El Reventador’ Volcano, Ecuador. Explaining their Measured High‐Resolution Satellite Radar, published by the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. I also read “Geopolitical Space: An Ideal Place for a Space Launch Platform” which explains why Ecuador is a prime spot for rocket launches.
EXA is the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency, which was founded on November 1st, 2007, in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
As a civilian independent research and development institution in charge of the administration and execution of the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Program, it conducts scientific research on planetary and space sciences and aims to push forward the development of the astronautical sciences.
EXA is the first space agency in the history of Ecuador, it has its own astronaut, the ASA/T Ronnie Nader, who trained in the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in the Russian Federation. He also serves as the Director of the Space Operations Division and is the Honorary Chairman of the Directorate Board of EXA. his state of service is active, his function is Mission Commander. Since September 29, 2008, EXA is member of the International Astronautical Federation IAF.
Why’s does Ecuador want to be part of the space sector? One of the main reasons is savings of 37% in cost when it comes to space launches, and satellite cost. There is also an increased initial speed of the rocket from Ecuador and the rocket can be made to weigh less given the country’s location. The agency has already made many strives when it comes to science and technology, even with their lack of accessibility to the bigger space sector and without the financial stability of larger agencies like NASA and ESA.
EXA built and operated the first and only Internet-to-Orbit gateway in the world, the “HERMES-A/MINOTAUR” station, which is currently used by many universities and research institutions around the world. Also designed and operates the “A Satellite in the Classroom” program, which is the only program in the world that allows elementary schools to have their own virtual ground station, so their students can download satellite images in real time in the classroom. Some of the spinoff technologies by EXA include Antenna Systems, Attitude & Control Systems, Communication Systems, Ready-to-fly Platforms, Onboard Computer, Power Systems, and Solar Panels.
EXA designed and built the “NEE-01 PEGASUS,” the first Ecuadorian satellite, the first in its class to be able to transmit live video from space and to have its own anti-radiation shield, the NEE-01 was inserted into orbit on April 25, 2013, and its twin NEE-02 KRYSAOR entered orbit in November of the same year. The Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency is in charge of the administration and execution of the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Program. They conduct scientific research on planetary and space sciences and push forward the development of science in the educational system in Ecuador. Going into EXA history, on August 29, 2007 Nader published the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Program for the next 10 years and announced the creation of the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency. On November 1, 2007, the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency, EXA is created and on the same month, EXA proposes the Project DAEDALUS to FAE, the making of the first microgravity plane in Latin America. Using a device known as the PCMG-Mk1, which was developed entirely by EXA to compute in real time the exact parabola the plane must follow. FAE accepts to participate in the project with EXA as the project leader.
On April 10, 2008, EXA and FAE jointly flew the EXA/FAE-01 microgravity research mission, the first mission for Project DAEDALUS, on board of a Mirage F1JE combat jet, in order to test the capabilities of the device which guides the plane to sustain 21 parabolas with 501 seconds of microgravity, becoming the firsts to achieve such feat in the Latin American region. On that same month EXA started the Project POSEIDON, the biomedical research of children working in microgravity environments, for this purpose, it develops a variable gravity training program for children between 17 and 7 years old. During the flight the children performed 3 different experiments and data was collected about their tasks, the children performed better than expected in microgravity.
On October 22 EXA published de HIPERION report, a 1-year field study analyzing the latest 28 years of data from 10 satellites and more than 200 ground stations around the world plus 2 ground stations on Ecuadorian territory. The study concluded that the ozone layer over the tropics is damaged and as a result, extreme levels of UV radiation were found to be hitting Ecuadorian territory. EXA also implemented the “Reactive Alert Network HIPERION,” a real time alert system protecting more than 4 million people by giving them real time and accurate information about UV radiation levels. On July 21, 2011, ClydeSpace—the company building the UKUBE-1 satellite for the British Space Agency, announced that 8 structural parts made of titanium and designed and built by the EXA in Ecuador would be part of the spacecraft. This was the first time in history that an Ecuadorian institution reached this level of quality and technology needed to export parts for foreign satellites.
At the beginning of October 2018, during the International Congress of Astronautics IAC2018, held in Bremen, Germany, EXA signed several historical agreements first of which included the transfer of the exclusivity of marketing of its LASER technology to a multinational company RBCSignals, the second was the agreement for the realization of the first Latin American crewed mission to space with the Space Agency of Colombia - AEC, which was due to select the first Colombian astronaut, and the third was the contract with ASTROBOTIC to start the Latin American Lunar Program.
EXA’s realization of their plan as a established part of the space sector is realistic, low cost
and moderates a lot of complexity keeping other developing nations from joining space. With the right amount of support, their mission will prepare their people to efficiently and profitably manage their geographies and access to space and technology, as well as inspire new generations to undertake bigger challenges facing other developing nations looking to join the space sector and provide technologies that will benefit the future of society at a larger scale.
As a Dominican researcher, it was very satisfying to work on this. In my country (in my time) the exposure to space science or any type of information on space agencies was non-existent.
Becoming an active part of the field has been a very fulfilling experience, and I look forward to what the future holds for other nations in Latinamerica in the space sector.