Early Sunday morning at the Bariloche international airport in the province of Rio Negro, thousands of excited and proud Argentines gathered to celebrate the sending off of the completed Arsat-1 satellite, which was loaded Saturday aboard a large Ukrainian Antonov-series plane, and took off today for French Guiana, where it will be launched in October.
The completion and transfer of the Arsat-1, built by the state-owned INVAP company entirely by Argentine personnel and technology, was described by cabinet Chief of Staff Jorge Capitanich as a “historic event of global significance.” Joining Capitanich were Science and Technology Minister Lino Baranao, INVAP CEO Hector Otheguey, the Bariloche Mayor, and many other local and provincial dignitaries. “No one expected the spontaneous turnout” of so many people at the airport and lining the roads, RioNegro.com reported today.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner tweeted that Arsat-1’s completion demonstrates Argentina’s “capacity to produce technology as a result of the State’s investment and highly qualified human resources.” Only eight countries in the world have the ability to build satellites of this complexity, she said. Take note: “This is not a miracle,” she said, “nor due to luck… [but rather] to political will, government decision, and a policy of State,” which began when her late husband Nestor Kirchner took office in May of 2003. “Have no doubt about this.”
With Arsat-1, she explained, Argentina can thus protect the two geostationary orbits assigned to it by the International Telecommunications Union, achieving a kind of “satellite sovereignty,” especially because Great Britain was attempting to grab one of those orbits assigned to Argentina. She emphasized that with this technology, Argentina can provide digital TV, Internet, and other communications sevices to the rest of Ibero-America.
Bariloche is home to the Bariloche Atomic Center, which is Ibero-America’s premier educational facility for the training of nuclear engineers and scientists. The local civic center was the site of a “satellite festival” organized to celebrate the event, which included an INVAP kiosk showing a replica of Arsat-1, and other televised and published material explaining the technology’s significance. INVAP’s CEO Otheguei noted that Arsat-1’s completion “was one of the greatest challenges the country faced in terms of space development, and took place thanks to the policies of State and more than one million hours by people from different companies and organizations who participated in the mission.”