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Costa Rica launches space missions from Central America

in Central America has, since Friday, May 11, a new ally that monitors from space: it is the Costa Rican satellite

(EEI) with the mission of collecting data related to carbon fixation during the next six months

This was the best performance of the first Costa Rican and Central American satellite sent to space, and also marked the beginning of a new incursion of the region in space missions.

the Costa Rican satellite Batsú-CS1, were launched the first Kenyan satellite, 1KUNS-PF, developed by the University of Nairobi, and the Turkish Ubakusat, developed by the Technical University of Istanbul. The video shows the release of the first two (Credit of the original video : JAXA).

"The added value of this satellite lies in having assigned it a scientific mission; during the next six months, it will compile daily the growth data of melina trees ( Gmelina arborea ), issued by sensors called dendrometers in an experimental plot located in the Northern Zone of the country " , commented to SciDev.Net Julio Calvo, rector of TEC and principal investigator of the project.

This small satellite – of ten centimeters per side and weighing one kilogram – is part of the Irazú Project developed since 2013 by the TEC and the Central American Association of Aeronautics and Space (ACAE).

While progress was made in the design, assembly and testing of the satellite, a forest biomass measurement system was developed that used satellite technology to improve the collection of this information.


 installation of remote station

Adolfo Chaves, Yeiner Arias and Esteban Martínez install the remote station in the Northern Zone of Costa Rica (Credit: Julio Calvo).

According to Calvo explained, forest biomass can be measured manually with field visits , or by means of anchoring techniques that could damage the trees. However, this dendrometer system allows these digital measurements to be made in a non-invasive form through an ultrasonic sensor; have a millimeter precision of tree growth; obtain this data remotely thanks to its transmission to the satellite, and even count on several measurements per day, to relate daily growth with environmental variables obtained with other sensors, even hundreds of kilometers away.

"By measuring daily how much the tree grows, we can extrapolate how much the mass grows on a hectare and translate it into how much carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) fixes that plantation to the atmosphere, "added Calvo, who is also a forestry engineer.

] In his words, plants are made up of chains of hydrogen and carbon; Through the leaves and during the process of photosynthesis, the plant captures CO 2 as a gas, from which it obtains carbon -which remains fixed in its structure- and releases oxygen to the environment.

 ] proyecto_irazu_banner_arte_final-03 By Maricel Mata

Mission details (Credit: Maricel Mata / TEC).

Batsú-CS1 was built under the standard CubeSat – a small and low-cost format with form of cube-, which has already been done in various universities around the world for its ease of access to space.

According to its promoters, one of its advantages is that it allows students and teachers to have experiences of impact on development of capabilities in space technologies.

This principle was put into practice by the Kyushu Institute of Technology (KIT), one of the project partners, where students from developing countries are directly involved in the project. process In this case, after receiving the satellite built in Costa Rica, Costa Rican students in KIT submitted it to endurance tests.

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'Batsú 'means' hummingbird' in Bribri, language of one of the indigenous peoples Costa Ricans bearing the same name (Credit: SETEC-Lab / TEC).

Adolfo Chaves, coordinator of the Space Systems Laboratory of TEC (SETEC-Lab), told SciDev.Net that the Irazú Project experience showed that the country has the capacity to propose solutions using space technology to perform independent research, from and for developing countries .
"In countries of Africa, in India or even in Brazil, where distances and access to remote places is difficult and expensive, having a device that automatically measures forest biomass and sends data by satellite is a great contribution, and this experience can be implemented in other contexts, "Calvo added.

The satellite had the contribution of public and private institutions, international collaborations, and even participation of the public, who financed a part of the project.

Through a recent contest aimed at young people was chosen the name of the satellite, which was proposed by Marco Araya, 16 years old. 'Batsú' means ' hummingbird ' and ' bearer of good news ' in indigenous Bribri language; it is completed with 'CS' by CubeSat and '1' for being the first Central American satellite.

After its mission -which is expected to end in December of this year-, Batsú-CS1 will not generate space junk ]because it will disintegrate upon entering the atmosphere.

 awards certificates for satellite, by micitt

Marco Araya, 16, was the winner of the contest to name the Costa Rican satellite. The young Mariela Sánchez and Adriana Alvarado were winners of the 2nd and 3rd place. (Credit: Micitt)

"Central America is experiencing a sudden-but calculated-startup and introduction to space technologies, as reflected in the parallel start of efforts in the development of satellites in Costa Rica and Guatemala," he told ] SciDev.Net Luis Zea, co-director of the CubeSat project at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, which is developing a satellite similar to Batsú-CS1 and which will also include a scientific mission.

In his words, Guatemala is currently working on the definition of an experiment carried out with two space agencies (NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR) and several universities (including MIT) "for the microbial biofilm research ; a method that bacteria use to spread diseases. " This satellite will take off to the ISS by mid-2019.

For José Alberto Ramírez, head of the Aerospace Department of the Space Systems Laboratory of the UNAM (Mexico), these initiatives could break with the tradition in isolated spatial technological development that has been great opportunities for regional collaboration .

"The potential of space technology is now a necessity, not an option, because they can safeguard the lives of people in many countries. ", He mentioned to SciDev.Net.

> See how the first space connection with a Costa Rican satellite was experienced from the TEC (Costa Rica).

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