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Havana. October 24, 2014

Arsat-1, Argentina on the path toward satellite sovereignty

Martin Hacthoun

THE launch of the Arsat-1 has propelled Argentina onto the path towards satellite sovereignty and opened the door to Latin America to reap the benefits of this scientific and technological achievement.

From the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, an Ariane 5 ECA heavy launcher successfully launched the first Argentine geostationary satellite, the Arsat-1, into orbit, which will provide telecommunications services in Latin America.

"We are building a satellite homeland", Matías Bianchi, director of the Arsat Project stated, speaking from Kourou, French Guiana, after the takeoff of the Ariane-5 rocket, which put the space sensor in elliptical transfer orbit.

Satellite sovereignty is a key concept, adopted by President Nestor Kirchner, as a tool for the technological independence of the country, with the creation in 2006 of the Argentina Satellite Company (Ar-Sat), Bianchi added.

He emphasized that this represented, "a strategic decision to protect the country’s orbital positions, and to do so with satellites made ​​in Argentina".

For the Secretary of National Communications, Norberto Berner, who also traveled to Kourou, the Arsat project holds great significance for both the country and the region, which he defined it as "a milestone that must be sustained over time."

In practical terms, this is one of the most significant technological achievements for Argentina in recent times, with the country joining a select group of seven countries, plus the European Union, which produce satellites.

Three of these are emerging nations and belong to the strong BRICS group - Russia, China, India - and now Argentina.

The satellite will ensure that the country must no longer lease satellites. Not only will it bring sovereignty and shrink the digital divide, but also allow for savings of $25 million a year in rent.

Bianchi also noted that the launch responds to a policy of social inclusion, as it will provide the possibility for signals to extend from rural schools to places previously impossible to reach via fiber optic cable.

The satellite was developed by the Ar-Sat company, a public limited company belonging to the Argentine state, 98% of which is managed by the Ministry of Planning and 2% by the Ministry for the Economy.

Among several uses, it will extend the open digital television signal, secure Internet channels and data transfer and expand mobile phone signals. The development of the Arsat-1 cost $250 million dollars, an investment which will be recovered in seven years, according to company directors.

In addition, the launch has ensured that Argentina did not lose the highly coveted orbital position 81, which covers a broad area from the U.S to the Malvinas Islands. The United Kingdom was awaiting the decision of the International Telecommunication Union, in order to acquire the position.

Another benefit is that over time the project will result in a decrease in the price of Internet access and cellular communications and, by expanding open digital television, it could lead to a reduction in the cost of cable services.

In a nationally televised speech following the launch, President Cristina Fernandez explained that the satellite will also allow state companies, as well as the private sector, to export services.

After congratulating scientists involved in the project, the president said, "At a time when the vultures with their black wings want to seize our present, and others from within wish to repeal our dreams, we remind them that dreams can not be repealed, that the future will not be repealed."

In this way, the head of state criticized U.S. based predatory hedge funds litigating against the country, and opposition leaders who have threatened to repeal laws recently passed by Congress and enacted by her government.

"Like the wings of the Arsat, Argentina’s wings have also been deployed, which are not wings of repeal or destruction, but rather wings of construction, they are white wings of progress in science and technology, equality, the homeland", the president stressed.

She also revealed that 70 percent of the Arsat-2 has already been built, expected to be launched into space next year, which will allow domestic and international companies to export telecommunications services.

Fernandez also noted that Arsat-3 has already been designed, to further develop and optimize the entire fiber optic network deployed in recent years across the country. (PL)

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