Astronauts of the first Latin American Space Mission look to work with ISRO for future programs

LATCOSMOS is an initiative from EXA adopted by the International Astronautical Federation’s Latin American and Caribbean Regional group committee, and as such, is a supra-national and private program.

Mission specialist astronaut, commander Ronnie Nader, Ecuadorian Civil Space Agency (EXA)/FAE

For the first time in the history of Latin American Space travels, a crew of made up only Latin Americans will be going onboard. The first Latcosmos mission has been promoted by the Ecuadorian agency EXA, which will provide the funds for the first space trip. The crew which will participate is being commanded by Commander Ronnie Nader, Exa Ecuador, and Adolfo Chaves, TEC Costa Rica; Alberto Ramírez, UNAM Mexico and Margot Solberg, US.

Two astronauts – interacted with Financial Express Online and talked about their mission and how they can collaborate with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the future.

Dr Adolfo Chaves Jiménez, Researcher Coordinator, Space Systems Engineering Laboratory (SETEC Lab) School of Electronics Costa Rica Institute of Technology, has been chosen to travel to Outer space as part of the first Latin American space mission in history.

Mission specialist astronaut, commander Ronnie Nader, Ecuadorian Civil Space Agency (EXA)/FAE, is the first person in history to achieve the two most significant milestones in astronautics for a country. He is the first astronaut and the father of its first satellites and at the same time is the only Ecuadorian representative to the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) General Assembly.

He is also the first and only Ecuadorian citizen to be elected as a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, and member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Following are excerpts of an interaction with Dr Adolfo Chaves Jimenez who talks about the mission and how ISRO and Costa Rica can work together in the space sector:

What is the Irazú Project (the first Central American satellite)?

I got in contact with the Central American Society for Aeronautics and Space (ACAE) because I wanted to participate in the project. They asked me to be their first project manager. Finally, with the help of a lot of people, the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC) became the partner of ACAE, in charge of the technological development of the satellite.

What is the significance of the mission which will be in a New Sheppard rocket, from Blue Origin?

The idea of the mission is to demonstrate that Latin America can undertake joint space missions. The support of EXA has been fundamental on this. Through the Latin American and the Caribbean Group (GRULAC) of the International Astronautical Federation, they are offering us this opportunity.

As a coordinator of the Space Systems Laboratory (SETEC-Lab) of the Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC), we will be part of the suborbital trip in the mission called ESAA-01 EX SOMINUS AD ASTRA. This is part of the Latcosmos-C program.

This is one of the many steps that many people of Costa Rica have taken to promote Space as a tool for development and inspiration.

Have you as a coordinator ever considered partnering with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)?

Absolutely! As a matter of fact, we (SETEC Lab) were the technical counterpart in the proposal for the creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency (AEC), right now in discussion in Congress. We hope when AEC is established, to open an agency-to-agency cooperation with ISRO, that would be even more beneficial than doing it only from a single university.

Would you like to visit ISRO and are there any plans to have cooperation with the Indian Space Agency and sharing best practices?

Absolutely. I admire the technical work of ISRO and believe it has earned its place as one of the leading space agencies in the world, not only through their achievements but also by leading the way in a very creative, practical form of work. We can learn a lot about India, and I believe a relationship with Costa Rica would be of common interest and benefit. Of course, I would love to visit!

How can the Indian Space Agency and your Space Systems Laboratory (SETEC-Lab), work together?

SETEC Lab is always looking for ways to use space engineering as a tool of development in Costa Rica. Costa Rica can add added value to the common interest with other nations due to its capabilities in biodiversity research (world-class laboratories in one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world), to its geographical location in order to give services to satellites, and to its work in environmental conservation, where many interests are common with countries such as India.

I believe cooperation with countries like India will generate win-win situations for the benefit of both countries.

Following are excerpts from an interaction with Ronnie Nader, father of the first Ecuadorian Satellites:

Are you the first-ever astronaut in your country? How did you get interested and where did you train?

Yes I am, I completed my training in 2007 in the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia under the auspices of the Ecuadorian Air Force and my government. I am also the father of the first Ecuadorian satellites.

What is the Latcosmos Mission and the purpose behind this? Who is funding this?

The purpose of the LATCOSMOS human spaceflight program is:

  1. To demonstrate successful cooperation and teamwork between Latin Americans in human spaceflight;
  2. To gather more advanced bio-metrical and biomedical data from these experiences than those demonstrated during the DAEDALUS, POSEIDON and ARPIA programs from EXA;
  3. To learn how to develop and operate experiments and technology for human space flight.

And, the capital funding comes from EXA, after that the missions are self sustainable from the financial point of view.

This is the first time ever I heard of Space programme like this in the region. So what kind of Space programme you have in Ecuador?

LATCOSMOS is an initiative from EXA adopted by the International Astronautical Federation’s Latin American and Caribbean Regional group committee, and as such, is a supra-national and private program.

The experiments are varied and they will be of use to the institutions in charge of them, just a few of them will belong to the crew’s national institutions, the rest will be sold commercially to other parties around the world in order to make the mission financially sustainable.

You have been funding Startups in India. Why did you decide to do so?

Indian space sector is efficient and effective, produces good quality products and Indian engineers are very capable, that is why EXA has been looking at India as a provider of some products and services we need in order to reduce the costs of our technology exports, which are the main source of income of the Agency.

Have you considered working with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)?

Of course and we look forward to it, as Agency we have good relations with ISRO and the ISRO chairman and me we both serve as Academicians in the International Academy of Astronautics, so you can say we are colleagues.

More about Latcosmos

This emerged three years ago as an initiative of the Regional Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (Grulac) of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). That organisation accepted TEC among its ranks in 2017, as the first university in Central America to achieve it. And the target areas of the interests include: Satellite in the classroom; Latin American experiments in space; and Latin Americans in space.

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