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European Space Agency To Support Portuguese Space Launch Programme

Portugal as seen from space. Photograph courtesy of Thomas Pesquet/Reddit.

Portugal is developing the infrastructure for a national spaceport on one of the islands of the Azores archipelago, Santa Maria, a European launch and landing location for small satellites.

As an ESA Member State, Portugal has requested ESA’s tailored expertise and technical assistance in an agreement signed on 21 June 2019 by ESA Director General Jan Woerner and Manuel Heitor, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education.

Within its purpose, ESA provides assistance to its Member States for national activities. Portugal will benefit from ESA’s leading technical and programmatic expertise in managing launch base development and ground infrastructures, related services, and testing as well as in the application of specific legal frameworks for national spaceports.

Portugal Space will retain overall technical and financial responsibility for request and use of ESA expertise.

There is a growing demand for launches of small satellites on microlaunchers. As Member States respond to these market needs, ESA intends to lend support to those Member States requesting it, in the domain of spaceports and test infrastructures under their jurisdiction as well as related services.

This ESA assistance to Member States is further defined as part of the Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme proposed for decision at Space19+ in November.

In 2022, ESA could make use of the Azores landing location for its Space Rider lifting body, which will serve as a laboratory platform in space for extended periods and return to Earth with its cargo. The Azores landing base would be suitable as it allows Space Rider to return at the same latitude as its operational orbit, requiring fewer deorbiting manoeuvres.

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