Argentina has led the Latin America’s space industry for several decades. It has been developing, manufacturing and operating earth observation and telecommunications satellites. Without being part of any political agenda or policy, across several different administrations, the sector has continued to advance.
A space advisor to former President Macri explains, “Argentina has great potential, and history in space development, nothing like the US, Russia or China, but it continues to make progress.”
“Argentina has great potential, and history in space development, nothing like the US, Russia or China, but it continues to make progress.”
Space advisor to former President Macri
2021 will be an important year for the sector, as a former National Agency for Space Activities (CONAE) explains, “The Special Launch Vehicle (VLE) is due to launch in the coming months, this will allow Argentina to take the latest satellites into space without depending on a third party, such as SpaceX.”
This development shows the potential that the sector has, although there is little publicly funding for the sector: just 0.11% of the budget in 2016. In percentage terms, this is well above that of other countries in the region, but very far from other countries such as Japan, France, India or Italy. In absolute terms, they are not relevant values, but they are important for the initial stages of projects.
Among the different private ventures launched in the last 10 to 15 years, Satellogic is the best-known. The company is well advanced in the construction of a constellation of 90 Earth observation satellites, which soon will allow it to remap the entire planet on a weekly basis, in with a 1 metre resolution or 30 metre resolution with a hyperspectral camera.
The company was born as part of a state project incubator, with some financing, but it has subsequently opened its capital to investors internationally. Investors include China’s Tencent, Brazil’s Pitanga and USA’s CrunchFund. An entrepreneur and CEO of a space company in Argentina regrets the macroeconomic environment in Argentina, “It is not easy to invest in Argentina, much less in a very long-term and capital intensive sector, this means we are not progressing as fast as we would like.”
“It is not easy to invest in Argentina, much less in a very long-term and capital intensive sector, this means we are not progressing as fast as we would like.”
Entrepreneur and CEO of a space company, Argentina
Although Satellogic is the most well-known, there are other ventures in Argentina that are making good progress. These include Solapa, which began as an agricultural consultancy business but later became a web platform that collects information on crops, through the use of satellite imagery. There is also the case of Frontec, formed by the public company INVAP and the high-profile Los Grobo group. It is a technological platform that combines aerospace science, computer science and agronomics to provide solutions to the value chain in food production.
Finally, with regard to regional development, a cooperation agreement was signed last year between Mexico and Argentina, which led to the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency (ALCE). Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Paraguay also became members at the end of 2020 with Colombia and Peru participating as observers. The entrepreneur in the space sector is unsure if the new agency will have any impact, “I hope it [the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency] works but I don’t think it will change much for us, it seems to be more focused on politics than business.”