PHOTO FILE: General view of the central stage of the Web Summit, the largest technology conference in Europe, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 5, 2018. REUTERS / Pedro Nunes / File Photo
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal plans to build an international launch pad for small satellites in the Azores and has agreed with China to establish a joint research center to build satellites on the mainland, the minister of science and technology said on Tuesday.
The government received provisional proposals from 14 consortia from Europe, the United States and Russia to design the launch pad jointly with local organizations, and to use the site in the future, said Manuel Heitor.
During the Web Summit – the largest European technology conference to be held in Lisbon this week – Heitor told journalists that the "space port" in the Central-Atlantic island of Santa Maria should be ready for commercial launches within the half of 2021.
Portugal aims to choose the winning bid by mid-2019.
Heitor also announced the joint 50-million-dollar ($ 57 million) project with China, to be financed in equal parts by the two countries and to set up a laboratory in Portugal next year.
The micro-satellites designed for the project will connect with terrestrial and ocean sensors to collect data used in agriculture, fishing and oceanography.
Portugal's satellite research funding will come from state and private sources and will involve the local Tekever company, which manufactures surveillance drones for military and civilian applications, including the search for migrants from Africa.
Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Robin Pomeroy