When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Geopolitics

Dilma To Houston, Brazil Aims To Relaunch Space Program With US Boost

After doing business with both Saddam Hussein's Iraq and China, Brazil's space program is going back to where it started: NASA.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaks at the White House on June 30, 2015
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaks at the White House on June 30, 2015
Matias Spektor

-Analysis-


SAO PAULO — The Brazilian space program was born in 1961 thanks to American support. It never recovered from its demise during the following decade, and it's clearer now than ever that a successful space program can only happen with renewed cooperation with Washington. Which is why Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's visit to NASA this past week was fortuitous.

In the 1960s, NASA indeed trained engineers, sold equipment and transferred propulsion technology and fuel for rockets, on top of providing assistance in the meteorological tests area.

But it all fell apart starting in 1977, when Brazil launched its own rocket construction program, which the Pentagon believed could be diverted to assemble missiles. The fact that Brazil later signed contracts to produce military reconnaissance satellites and missiles with Saddam Hussein's Iraq didn't help either.

The United States imposed commercial sanctions as a result and pressured France and Russia into suspending cooperation contracts they had signed with Brazil. In response, Brazilian authorities by seeking Chinese cooperation for the launch of satellites and invested in construction of satellite launch vehicles (VLS).

But the space program never took off. All three attempts to send a VLS rocket into orbit failed. The last one in 2003 cost 21 lives.

For more than 20 years, it's been clear that the solution to these problems lies in renewing Brazilian cooperation with the United States.

And for that to happen, Brazil has the perfect trump card: the Alcantara Launch Center on the northeastern coast, in the state of Maranhao. The site could be leased in exchange for the recipe necessary to execute the space program that's existed only on paper for so long.

For this project to happen, we need a safeguard agreement with the Americans, who already dominate the global launch market.

Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso tried to do just that. Negotiations were tough at first. Washington was asking that Brazil nullify its contracts with countries that hadn't signed on to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which would have benefited American companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. They also asked that Brazil abandon the construction of its own launch vehicle.

The American government also presumed to block Brazilian access to their launchers. Brazil's foreign policy mobilized some of its best leaders to try and turn the tables.

In 2000, after months of difficult talks, negotiators finally reached common ground. Brazil would limit its access to American launchers, but in compensation would be allowed to develop its own launch vehicle and decide whether to authorize any demand to use Alcantara for American launches.

But when the agreement came, Workers' Party lawmaker Waldir Pires launched a devastating attack against the plan, denouncing the agreement as a Trojan horse giving the U.S. control over the Alcantara site and an "affront to Brazil's sovereignty." His criticism featured on the front pages of all the newspapers and magazines and was backed by lawmakers from a broad political spectrum, even among some in the then-governing right-wing Social Democracy Party.

Since then, Brazil has tried to resurrect Alcantara in partnership with Ukraine. But the plan petered out because there is simply no viable launch market without a general agreement with the United States.

Everybody in Brazil knows that the future of the space program is entirely dependent on Brasilia and Washington reaching a deal. Now that President Dilma Rousseff has restarted the dialogue, it's about time we launch a whole new series of negotiations.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Dottoré!

Sowing The Seeds Of Paranoia

"They must be dumping garbage — good, it makes for good fertilizer!"

"Slowly, we were the only ones left"

Mariateresa Fichele

"Dottoré, I know a lot of flags, and let me tell you why. I grew up in the province of Caserta, and — like everybody in those days — my parents owned a piece of land, and they would take me with them to farm it.

I remember there were other kids in the fields around us. But then, slowly, we were the only ones left because everybody was selling the land, making a lot of money off of it too.

Papà wouldn't listen to reason and he kept the land. But in the meantime, instead of farmers, trucks began to arrive. Many many trucks, unloading thousands of barrels and burying them into the ground.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ