On March 7th, the Portuguese government announced the creation of Portugal Space, a space agency that will be based on the Azores island of Santa Maria, in the Atlantic Ocean. The initiative has the support of the European Space Agency (ESA).
The new agency will be responsible for the management of national space programs, aiming to bring investment and create qualified employment in the science and technology field in Portugal. According to Lusa Portuguese News Agency, the science minister Manuel Heitor said the agency would be up and running by the end of the present month.
The creation of the space agency is part of Portugal Espaço 2030 (Portugal Space 2030), a new strategy established by the Portuguese government in 2018. The programme aims to open doors for “new opportunities of institutional, industrial and international cooperation, contributing for the development of innovative and competitive technologies in the international market”, as stated in the Portuguese Official Gazette in March, 2018.
There was also an announcement today concerning further details on the “AZORES International Satellite launch Programme, AZORES ISLP”. It is expected that the first launches of nanosatellites will take place in 2021, with work on the spaceport in the Azores starting after contracts are awarded in June to partnering consortiae and companies. Among the organizations that have expressed interest are the Russian Federation’s ROSCOSMOS, as well as billionaire Richard Branson’s company Virgin Orbit.