BUENOS AIRES – Argentina is preparing for the launch of its second domestically built satellite, Arsat-2, which will provide telecommunication services across much of the Western Hemisphere.
The Benavidez Ground Station in northern Buenos Aires province is adjusting its instruments as personnel at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana prepare for Wednesday’s scheduled liftoff of the Arsat-2 atop a French Ariane 5 rocket.
“The satellite will be connected to our control center from the morning of launch day and we’ll be monitoring variables constantly,” Matias Bianchi, president of the state-owned Empresa Argentina de Soluciones Satelitales, or Arsat, told EFE.
The crew at the Benavidez station already has one mission under its belt: last year’s launch of the 2,900-kilo (6,000-pound) Arsat-1 satellite.
Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff the Argentine satellite will reach an elliptical orbit around Earth. Over the next two weeks mission control in Benavidez will perform five navigational adjustments to place the satellite in geosynchronous orbit.
Theoretically, Arsat-2 “might remain forever” in that orbit, though some conditions make adjustments necessary, Bianchi said.
Last year, President Cristina Fernandez’s government hailed the Arsat-1 mission as a reason for pride, making Argentina part of “a select group” of only eight countries that design and manufacture communications satellites.
Arsat 1 reaches remote areas of Argentina where laying fiber-optic cable would be prohibitively expensive and has already enabled more than 2,500 rural schools to connect to the Internet.
While Arsat-1 serves Argentine territory, Arsat-2 will cover almost the entire hemisphere, from the southern half of the United States to the Malvinas, or Falkland, islands.
This second Argentine satellite is equipped with three telecommunications antennas, which means that Arsat-2 can generate three separate “footprints” on Earth.
The Arsat spacecraft, according to Bianchi, are part of a long-term “process of technological development” for Argentina.
“Today, Argentina is developing a launch vehicle to transport satellites weighing about 200 kilograms (900 pounds)” Arsat’s president said, adding that the country has a long way to go before it can build rockets capable of lifting 3-ton spacecraft into orbit.