Space age: Chile launches satellite into orbit

The US$72 million apparatus will be used to plan for agriculture, urban growth and disaster management.

Chile has successfully launched an earth observation satellite into space following a carefully monitored operation late last week. Dubbed FaSat Charlie, the satellite will be used to gather information for agricultural and urban planning, as well as monitoring the risk of natural disasters. The space apparatus was launched from a base in Kourou, Guyana, along with five French satellites, late on Friday night. President Sebastián Piñera watched the launch via video link from the Chilean Air Force’s satellite center in southern Santiago.

“The country is confidently entering the space age, although there are still more stages to complete,” Piñera said, according to a report in El Mercurio. “Chile has always been a maritime nation and now we must also become a space nation.” Defense Minister Andrés Allamand also heralded the launch, declaring it a national “milestone” in a pre-launch statement.

“The launch of the satellite…is the result of years of planning, aimed at putting a satellite into orbit,” he said. “[It] will support the development of public policy in diverse areas, such as mapping risks for emergencies and natural disasters, agricultural management during periods of drought and managing natural resources by reviewing a range of factors, such as the shrinking of glaciers and the growth of the desert.”

The US$72 million satellite was built by France’s National Center for Outer Space Studies (CNS) along with European consortium EADS Astrium. Equipped with a silicon carbide Korsch telescope, the satellite has the capacity to detect submarines and recognize aircraft and vehicles from its orbit in outer space. This is the third time Chile has launched a satellite into space, following two launches in the 1990s.