COSTA RICA ? Creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency (AEC)

Background.-

We cannot talk about the creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency (AEC), without first referring to Dr. Franklin Chan Díaz, a "true pioneer of paradigms", the Costa Rican astronaut who has raised the name of the country very high, and who has become a clear benchmark in the world aerospace race having completed seven space missions and a total of sixteen hundred hours in space. Without a doubt, this has served as motivation for many other Costa Ricans and Latin Americans to try to follow in his footsteps.

For its part, the Costa Rican Technological Institute (TEC), based in the Central canton of Cartago, through its Space Systems Laboratory (SETEC-Lab), in a decisive and visionary manner, conducts academic research in this interesting, specialized and novel subject.

As one thing leads to another, the TEC Researchers did not take long to launch the Irazú Satellite into space, a product of the discipline of those who want things and the rigor of the academic method, said

About the Space Agency.-

A space agency has among its functions, research in space science, earth observation and the commercial use that may be given to it, or related services.

The space race has allowed the participation of government agencies, academia, private companies and citizens of different countries, who have jointly participated in many missions to space, which has been seen in the construction of satellites, and research projects of diverse nature.

Space agencies also serve to generate income for countries in areas such as telecommunications, meteorology, navigation and global positioning based on GPS, and maps, which mean Investigation and development that serves us all in fields such as medicine, civil aviation, engineering and many other areas of human endeavor.

In Latin America, countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Peru have this type of organization, and Costa Rica should not be left behind for many reasons, one of which is that it has a very important specialized professional base, which has even been trained in NASA, and there is a National High Technology Center (CENAT), which has carried out research work in its laboratories to nanotechnology in advanced computing and biotechnology.

Another no less important element is the geographical location of Costa Rica, which has special competitive advantages, which is why Liberia, Guanacaste has been considered the place where the project will be developed, given the climatic conditions for observing the Universe.

Of the Law for the Creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency (AEC).-

After a long legislative path, file No. 21,330 was approved on February 18, 2021, but it still lacks the signature of our President of the Republic, who has spoken in favor of it, and there does not seem to be the minimum indication of a partial or total veto of the project, except for the budget issue to provide funds to the Agency.

Now I will refer to the text of the Law, in what concerns the OBJECT, GUIDING PRINCIPLES and LEGAL NATURE of the same, and the FUNCTIONS, both of the Costa Rican Space Agency, and of the Guanacaste Space Center, without going into details of organization, budget , and assets in general:

Article 1-Object, establishes the regulatory framework of the Costa Rican Space Agency (AEC), which will allow the design, development, execution and implementation of the national space strategy.

Article 2-Guiding Principles, makes a reference to International Law, and to the same Human Rights that are known as Fourth Generation, and are included in the following principles established by the United Nations on the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, being these:

a) The exploration and use of outer space must be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, since it is the responsibility of all humanity.

b) Outer space and celestial bodies may be freely explored and used by all countries under conditions of equality and in accordance with international law. Outer space may not be the object of national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, use or occupation, or in any other way.

c) The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security, promoting international cooperation and international understanding.

d) All activities in outer space should be guided by the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance, and in all their activities they should take due account of the interests of other countries.

e) When carrying out activities in outer space, as well as on celestial bodies, astronauts must render all possible assistance to other astronauts from other countries and international agencies.

f) The exploration and use of outer space will be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes and will not involve the installation of any object carrying nuclear weapons or any other type of weapons of mass destruction, or military fortifications.

g) The exploration and use of outer space shall promote the protection of the natural environment of the Earth and shall use all means, in order to protect humanity against natural disasters. Likewise, the environmental effects in the space of these activities will be taken into account.

h) The Agency will be the national institution in charge of authorizing and supervising national activities carried out in outer space, government agencies, non-governmental entities. Likewise, it will be in charge of ensuring that said activities are in accordance with the provisions of international law.

i) The State shall be responsible for the national activities carried out in outer space by government agencies or non-governmental entities, and must ensure that such activities are carried out in accordance with the international principles applicable to space law.

j) The intellectual property rights of all objects launched into airspace or into outer space will be respected, in accordance with the standards established in international treaties and conventions on this matter. The property rights of objects launched into outer space, including objects that have landed on or are built on a celestial body, and their component parts, shall not be altered in any way while in outer space, including on a celestial body, nor in his return to Earth.

Article 3.- refers to its legal nature, since it places it as a non-state public entity, with legal personality and its own assets, with technical, administrative and management autonomy for the fulfillment of its powers, objectives and purposes.

Article 4 establishes what its functions will be: a) Develop research, technological innovation, collaboration and articulation projects focused on solving humanity's problems in terms of space scientific knowledge, space exploration and resource management inside and outside the planet Earth, within the framework of the UN sustainable development goals, with a peaceful approach focused on social welfare. b) Define and promote programs, projects and actions to strengthen the knowledge and development of space research, its influence on daily life and its potential as a factor of economic development. c) Contribute to the generation of lines of research and national space policy. d) Execute projects in accordance with the National Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation and with the Space Policy of Costa Rica; likewise, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Executive Branch regarding programs and policies related to outer space sciences. e) Promote the development of space systems and the means, technology and infrastructure necessary for the consolidation and self-sufficiency of this sector in Costa Rica, f) Facilitate the incorporation of the productive sector to this activity, in order to acquire competitiveness in markets for space goods and services. g) Support and execute exchange and collaboration protocols with the productive sector so that it can join and participate competitively in the space goods and services markets. h) Promote and execute scientific and technological studies and research on the matter in the priority areas of attention defined by the governing body. i) Propose actions that ensure compliance with international treaties, conventions and agreements signed and ratified by Costa Rica on the matter, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship as the institution in charge of managing the international relations of the State. j) Provide technical information and advise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, when required, in its powers to negotiate and sign international treaties of a bilateral or multilateral nature, and other instruments of lesser rank in matters of outer space. In addition to the above, articulate and coordinate with said Ministry to mobilize alliances, interconnectivities, cooperation projects or actions and political positioning of the country and its Agency in the international sphere. k) Execute policies regarding the evaluation, follow-up, promotion and orientation of the ACS programs. j) Promote scientific and technical progress, as well as the competitive advantages and innovation capacity of industries for the development of science, technology and innovation in space matters, in collaboration with state universities. m) The others indicated by this law and other regulations. n) Certify and accredit before the National Registry, the data contained in the registration documents of all space objects, launched or not into outer space, that are promoted and developed from Costa Rican territory, in accordance with current regulations. ñ) Collaborate in the construction of collaborative relationships with international agencies and companies dedicated to the space industry. o) Contribute to the development of cooperation activities with national institutions of an academic, technological and professional nature, dedicated to studies of specialties related to the subject. p) Authorize and supervise national activities carried out in outer space by government agencies or national non-governmental entities, which may generate responsibility for the country, in accordance with international law.

Article 11.- Creation of the Guanacaste Space Center, (?) the Guanacaste Space Center is created as a dependency of the Costa Rican Space Agency, in charge of the implementation of space research, development and innovation projects, promotion of space science and the management of complementary services related to the space area.

Article 12.- Functions of the Guanacaste Space Center: In order to fulfill its purpose, the Guanacaste Space Center will have the following functions: a) Execute scientific and technological innovation studies and investigations in the main axes developed by the governing body in matters space. b) Recommend to the Board of Directors of the ACS, new areas of research and technological innovation of space activity. c) Promote and maintain collaborative relationships with national and international scientific laboratories. d) Promote spaces for reflection and coordination of actions that support innovation, scientific and technological development and the formation of multidisciplinary groups of highly trained and experienced researchers. e) Develop for research purposes, development activities, licensing, exploitation contracting (know how), donation or purchase of patents, inventions, industrial or utility models, for which the authorization and participation of the AEC will be required. f) Collaborate in the construction of collaborative relationships with international agencies and companies dedicated to the space industry. g) Contribute to the development of cooperation activities with national institutions of an academic, technological and professional nature, dedicated to studies of specialties related to the subject. h) Contribute to the development of scientific and technological events in space, where members of the AEC and invited national and foreign specialists participate. i) Develop marketing strategies for the portfolio of products and services of innovation, research and development that it performs. j) Participate in scientific and technological actions and events in space, in order to increase skills in the field. k) Promote the interest of citizens in science and technology through the management of complementary services and social responsibility in the space area. l) Promote the coordination of the public and private sectors involved in the generation, training, transfer and application of high technology, as well as the permanent improvement of researchers, professionals, technicians and suitable personnel, through courses, scholarships and interaction with universities, state agencies and other institutions in the country or abroad. m) Implement the strategies defined to promote the competitive advantages of the regions, for the development of science, technology and innovation in space matters. n) Disseminate and sell publications derived from their research and experience in project management. ñ) Propose to the Agency the assignment, sale, transfer, and granting of exploitation licenses of its patents, industrial or utility models, as well as any other of the assets that make up its intellectual property. o) Others established by the Costa Rican Space Agency.

Key ideas:

  • It seeks to develop the space sector in a country like Costa Rica and in a competitive global environment it is attractive due to the competitive conditions offered by the country, such as the geographic location, the research that is generated, the level of education of professionals and scientists.
  • The Space Agency was processed under Bill 21,330 ?Creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency.?
  • It aims to become an arm of the Costa Rican State to encourage the development of space activity in Costa Rica.
  • It is a scientific and technological entity, with an eminently technical criterion.
  • Costa Rica will be able to make high-impact agreements with agencies from friendly countries, such as NASA, the European, Japanese or South Korean Space Agencies, to mention just a few with which it could have strategic alliances for the benefit of the country.
  • It seeks to encourage the emergence of high added value areas outside the metropolitan area of the country, using as criteria the advantages of Liberia, Guanacaste, such as its geographical conditions, the international airport and the ideal climate for the development of aerospace technology.
  • The project plans to have a Space Center research, innovation and development, which will be located in Liberia, Guanacaste, because it has the same climatic and geographical conditions as the Cape Canaveral Space Center, in Florida, United States. Said center will have complementary training services for international experts, exhibitions, a museum that offers additional services to the tourism that visits that region and that generates a productive chain.
  • I know will generate projects with high added value, since the aerospace sector requires suppliers that provide support in supplies and services such as meteorology, telecommunications, navigation and remote sensing satellites, these are the main base of economic activities that currently provide services. With regard to the field of medicine, advanced tele-diagnosis and self-diagnosis equipment is being developed that is applicable to a large number of situations that occur in our daily lives. In the case of meteorological satellites, telecommunications and navigation and remote sensing; These allow weather forecasting, sending of information or communications of all kinds, satellite-based navigation services (GPS), mapping or analysis of terrestrial resources.
  • The space sector industry in the last year it represented $800 billion dollars.
  • The space sector provides direct benefits for society, serving different needs from communication and navigation to resource management and precision agriculture.
  • The private sector has started to develop services and technologies to a diversity of actors (such is the case of the company SPACE X of Elon Musk, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully lifted off on May 30 last year aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, launching NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley into orbit.), we see that not only the government is currently involved. This is where Costa Rica has all the potential to sell products and services to this highly innovative industry.
  • The leading countries in the sector invest in almost all space activities, which range - but are not limited - from manufacturing, launches and small satellites, to Earth observation, satellite communication and space exploration.
  • In the case of the United States, of the $19.1 billion dollars required in 2018, NASA allocates 53% to R&D;20 China directs its space policy to have technological independence and innovation in science and technology;21 while the Space Agency Union created, among other things, a program to improve cooperation in R&D.

Final comment

We can point out that before the activities that the Costa Rican Space Agency would carry out, the fact of belonging to the State, because this gives it the due authority and strategic control of an activity that cannot go by itself, nor be in the hands of just anyone; It does not mean that it must submit to the limitations of hiring human resources, nor of the goods and services to which public entities are subject.

It should be noted that for this to be a successful project, you must have access to the highest level of human resources available, so it will be necessary to provide these officials/executives/researchers/staff/advisors with competitive salaries or remuneration; likewise, the acquisition of inputs for the different projects that consider aerospace goods and services, also require that these be of the highest quality, so that the system of purchases and payments of the Public Sector, could turn out not to be the most convenient for this great task, and in this Law that is achieved.

Similarly, aware that an agile mechanism is needed for the signing of cooperation agreements, or contracting with the Academy, or with foreign public or private law entities; and locals that will ?break the gap? and promote research and development and the registration of patents, is endowed with a certain autonomy, despite the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is involved in its formal concretion.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the "circular economy" process will have to take into account small and medium-sized companies that will produce inputs that will allow them to be chained to that innovation ecosystem that will be born around them.

I believe that Costa Rica cannot be left behind, and this group of academics, scientists, entrepreneurs and visionaries must be given the opportunity to consolidate the work that Dr. Franklin Chang Díaz began many years ago; and that served as an example to many other new generations to follow in his footsteps. In this sense, we should rather continue on this path, especially when the innovative visionary Elon Mosk recently said that he hopes to see, within a maximum period of six years, human beings traveling to Mars.

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