China will launch the Portuguese satellite ‘Infante’ some time in 2021 as part of its participation in the STARlab technology lab – the Portuguese-Chinese space and technology partnership.
The president of Tekever, a Portuguese aerospace company, Ricardo Mendes, said that China’s involvement in the Infante satellite is in the actual launch and in the development of certain sensors.
Tekever is one of the partners and leads the consortium of companies and universities responsible for the development of the satellite which will collect maritime and land surface data.
Ricardo Mendes hopes that the Infante, which has a budget of €10 million and is co-financed by EU funds, may be the start point for the development of satellites in Portugal at a new research centre to be created in Matosinhos.
Last November, the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor stated that STARlab would be fully operational in March 2019 and would have facilities in Matosinhos and in Peniche.
For Ricardo Mendes, what has taken longer is the harmonisation between Portuguese and Chinese legislation to formalise the creation and constitution of the laboratory.
The STARlab will apply for national, community and Chinese funding, some €50 million over five years, divided equally between Portugal and China.
The Luso-Chinese laboratory also is involved in underwater robotics projects including vehicles and sensors and in the production and launching of a constellation of small satellites to validate satellite “positioning technologies” in space.
This ‘underwater robotics’ element is of concern for ecology and environmental groups as Portugal’s government is keen to press ahead with dividing the ocean floor into commercial blocks for environmentally destructive deep sea mining operations.