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Launch Vehicles

In further moves away from dependence on the United States, in the 1980s Brazil took steps to become self-sufficient in the production of ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer for solid fuels. In addition to its indigenous research and development, Brazil now cooperates in its space program with Canada, the European Space Agency (ESA), Russia, France, and especially China. One joint satellite project with China is the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite. Brazil is also seeking space cooperation with new partners, such as Israel.

In the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, many United States policy makers were concerned with Brazil's MECB because of the possibility of diverting space-launch technology to a ballistic missile program. Although by mid-1997 Brazil had not produced a ballistic missile, its military had given high priority to the development of several missile systems, including the Piranha missile (MAA-1). Brazil's space-launch program, coupled with its artillery rocket technology, suggests that the country has the potential to develop advanced missiles, including ballistic missiles.

From 1987 to 1994, the United States sought to stifle the development of Brazil's ballistic missile program through the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), formed on April 16, 1987. Given Brazil's advanced nuclear program, the United States was especially concerned that a potential Brazilian ballistic missile could eventually serve as a vehicle for a nuclear warhead. The United States restrictions on space technology to Brazil stalled Brazil's VLS (Satellite Launch Vehicle) program and ballistic missile research and development, strained United States security relations with Brazil, and prompted Brazil to explore closer ties with China, Russia, and various countries in Europe and the Middle East (especially Iraq).

On February 11, 1994, Brazil announced that it would comply with MTCR guidelines. Such compliance would include export controls on Brazilian space and missile goods and technology. Brazil's accession to the MTCR coincided with various attempts by the United States to cooperate in space activities and seemed to signal a new era in space relations. Brazil's application for MTCR membership was accepted in October 1995. Thus, by the end of 1995 Brazil's space capabilities were improving, although they were modest by the standards of countries such as the United States and Russia.

LV ’s - May 17, 2007

1. VLS-1 – Estimated launch cost $8 million per launch. ((CTA/IAE) AIAA , International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems 1999, p. 488.) This program started in 1980. Its first launch in 1997 failed at 65 seconds, the second failed in flight at 200 seconds and the third flight test build up in 2003 destroyed part of the launch site infrastructure. Flight testing is scheduled to resume before the end of 2006 thanks to Russian assistance. Development cost over 20 years through 1999 was $250-300 million including the infrastructure. The launch site is located on the Alcantara space launch center (that was started in 1983) located in the state of Maranhao on the north-east coast of Brazil . Conversion from solid motor technology to liquid propellant rocket engines is being pushed gradually by the Brazilian, Russian efforts through the VLS, VLS-2 and Orion Launch Vehicle Projects.

2. VLM – VLS-2 - AIAA , International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems 1999, p. 489, 490. This variant of the core of the VLS-1 is estimated to cost $ 4 million per launch. Conversion of the VLS core from solid motor technology to liquid propellant rocket engines is being pushed gradually by the Brazilian, Russian assisted efforts through the VLS -2 development program. The VLS-2 will be capable of launching 400 – 1000 kg satellites into various orbits not exceeding 2000 km. It has yet to be flown independently.

3. Tsyklon-4 – Agreement between Brazil & Ukraine is being developed. Brazil and the Ukraine first developed the legal basis with five draft intergovernmental agreement for the construction of a Tsyklon-4 launch pad at Alcantara space launch center in October 2001. A coordinated memorandum of mutual understanding was developed between the Ukrainian Aerospace Agency and the Brazilian Space Agency. The documents were signed between November 2001 and January 2002. The hope was to launch up to 60 satellites starting in 2001 through the follow five years. (N.Y. Times 5-23-00 ) The Yuzhnoye OKB and the Yuzhnyy Machine-building plant located in Dnipropetrovsk (airframe, engines) and the Khartron Company of Kharkiv (Guidance, Instrumentation, flight avionics?) along with the Italian Fiat-Avio are the primes for the contract. The Italian Fiat-Avio company eventually withdrew from the agreements under US pressure. The Brazilian Infraero Company is the launch site infrastructure constructor. (FP Space10-3-01) The Ukrainian personnel started work on this project by April 2002 to define the launch site location and details (Space/com March 11, 2002 .) In September 2004 Brazil and the Ukraine signed an agreement that the Tsyklon-4 would be launched from Alcantara some time after 2007 and the agreement further committed both nations to fund $50 million each to the infrastructure launch facilities development over the following three years under the new Alcantara-Tsyklon-Space Joint Venture Company. The three stage Tsyklon-4 with it new third stage and much larger commercial payload shroud will be flight tested from the Baikonur Cosmodrome during the 4 th quarter of 2005 as presently scheduled. This did not happen but may start up once again in 2007 with the first Tsyklon launch expected in 2009. Additional flights of either the upgraded VLS-1 or Tsyklon-4 is expected during 2010 with three communications satellites launches. It is also expected to be flown from Plesetsk and the Alcantara launch sites. The Brazilian Ukrainian Tsyklon-4 project is being set up as a Joint Venture that will become operational either in 2004 or soon afterwards allowing six launches a year. Tsyklon-4’s payload capacity is stated to be between 4 metric tones and 1-1.5 metric ton for satellites placed in a 600 by 800 km low earth orbit. Pricing is expected to be com-probable but higher than the Tsyklon-2 & 3 launch cost or in the $8-$12 million range. That price may now have been raised to on the order of $30 million a launch. Brazil hopes to launch the Brazilian-Chinese CIBER-4 spacecraft on the Tsyklon-4. Whether this CIBER-4 satellite is being designed for both the LM-4B and the Tsyklon-4 launch dynamic environment remains unclear.

4. Orion Launch Vehicle System Project; - ( The Brazilian, Russian memorandum of understanding agreement signed on November 22, 2004 on joint cooperation incorporated the following joint developments of the Orion launch vehicle (based on Russian launch vehicle technology), work on improving the launch infrastructure safety, and geo-stationary communications and navigation satellite development. It is being headed up by the Orion Space Internacional, S.A. (OSI) project parent company a Brazil-based enterprise for financial and project development. OSI is registered in offices in Fortaleza , CE with the working office in Brasilia , District Federal. No specific time table for these developments was specified except that the first launch is planned for before 2008. Brazil has made it clear that it intends to become a commercial space fairing nation in the next few years. The Orion Launch Vehicle System Project was started through its feasibility design studies project in 2002 and formally established in 2003 by the Orion Space Ventrures Ltd. (OSV). (SpaceDaily Nov 22, 2004 , AFP) OSV has its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands where it continues to head the project as its primary investor.

Conversion from solid motor technology to liquid propellant rocket engines is being pushed gradually by the Brazilian, Russian efforts through the VLS and Orion Launch Vehicle Projects. This includes some gradual early more powerful liquid propellant rocket engine development testing. (FP Space Sept. 8, 2005 ) ( Russia will in fact carry out the launch vehicle’s development and engineering support, including supplying the engines and know how that the Brazilians will learn from and ultimately put into production for this planned GTO and GSO launch vehicle. While Brazil will acquire rocket space technology know how from Russia it is the Russian space industry and Federal Space Agency that will get the lion’s share of the contracts. The State Rocket Center “Makeyev” Design Bureau (SRC) is the lead Russian contractor for the launch vehicle design and development. Sub contracts will be with the N. D. Kuznetsov JSC of Samara, Russia for the NK-33’s, NPO Automation for the flight control (guidance and flight avionics) systems and the Progress Manufacturing Plant of Samara, Russia will serve as the serial production factory for the airframe portions of the launch vehicle. The Design Bureau of Transport Machinery (KBTM) of Moscow , Russia will serve as the launch infrastructure design lead, developer in cooperation with the Brazilian prime construction organizations. Orion is expected to be launched from the equatorial Alcantara space launch center. Alcantara offers the minimum energy combined capability to launch satellites into GTO, GSO and Polar orbits. There is no military activity associated with this activity and both nations are signatories to the MTCR and its requirements are being observed.

The basic Orion launch vehicle concept with a height of above 41.60 meters has a maximum width of 9.8 meters across its three barrel configuration similar to the Titan-3 with a bulbous payload shroud with a last stage contained within the shroud. There are two optional, single stage kerosene, liquid oxygen strap-ons boosters powered by one NK-33 engine each and a core of three stages. The core booster second stage is powered by one NK-33 engine while its third stage is powered by the kerosene, liquid oxygen RD-0124E engine which is in turn topped by the fourth last stage. There are several configurations for this launch vehicle that allow it to be flown without its last stage or with out its strap on boosters. The booster has been deigned to be capable of carrying 6 metric tonnes to GTO and and less mass on GSO missions. Orion will be capable of placing 14 tonnes into low earth Orbit. The cost of the one of the three NK-33’s based on previously released information by Aerojet is about $1 million a piece.

Like the Tysklon-4 which probably will finally come to fruition this Orion project and others have been open invitations for other nations and companies to invest the funds required to make this Brazilian space facility program a reality. With the present glut in launch services and the lack of immediately available satellites to launch as well as the lack of cheap highly reliable launch services available elsewhere this development growth will by necessity be slow for the Alcantara launch infrastructures development.

Although the United States and Brazil have signed in April 2000 an accord for the launching of American satellites on American launch vehicles from Alcantara there has been no further development to make this come to fruition beyond visits by the various American contractor organizations to consider the possibilities. With the advent of the Sea Launch, Zenit-3 program equatorial launches essentially eclipsed the Alcantara importance for the present commercial market.

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