THE FIRST SATELLITE MADE IN COSTA RICA: Space Technology for Climate Change Analysis
Irazú is the first Central American satellite, made in Costa Rica, a project conceived by the Central American Association for Aeronautics and Space (ACAE), and developed in conjunction with the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC).
We need your support to raise the last $75,000 to launch the satellite into space.
In addition to its main objective, which is to develop capabilities in Costa Rican professionals and students to carry out a real space mission, Irazú will become the proof of concept of a platform for monitoring climate change in the tropical forests of Costa Rica.
This project combines the efforts of academia, local industry and civil society. It was also declared of Public Interest by the Government of Costa Rica in 2014 .
(Para información en español: http://irazu.acae-ca.org/)
Project Background: ACAE
The Central American Association for Aeronautics and Space (ACAE) is a non-profit organization (NGO) with the mission of introducing Central America into the aerospace development paradigm. To achieve this goal, ACAE is working as a catalyst between government, academia industry and civil society in order to take advantage of the available resources in the region.
ACAE concluded that one of the most efficient ways to promote space technology development in Costa Rica is to prove its capacity to develop a full-scale space engineering project involving a scientific mission related to one of the country´s needs. This will be demonstrated through the development of Central America’s first satellite. Project Irazú intends to use CubeSat technology as a data communication platform to transmit data on forest growth, carbon sequestration and weather variables from remote areas.
ACAE, as the aerospace project developer, is supported by the Costa Rican Institute of Technology, otherwise known as TEC. This is the country’s largest technical university and it has strong on-going research on climate change and technology development.
To develop a full life cycle space engineering project using CubeSat technology as a proof of concept of a communication platform able to transmit environmental variables measured from remote protected areas in Costa Rica’s territory to a data visualization center for climate change research.
Irazú will address two of the country’s needs: the measurement of environmental variables and the development of a space project. The former is essential to Costa Rica since 53% of its area is covered by rainforest and the country places high priority on forest conservation. Furthermore, Irazú's measurements on carbon sequestration will contribute to the country´s goal of becoming carbon neutral. The project also seeks to develop a cadre of highly skilled individuals in the development, integration, testing and operations of space missions. By developing these skills, Costa Rica will be able to develop future missions.
The satellite will be a proof of concept of an orbital data relay system for information sent between ground-based measuring stations and a data gathering, analysis and visualization ground station.
The concept of operations (ConOps) describes the components of Irazú and how they interact and operate:
1) Remote station segment: This is where the measurements take place. The team will use devices called "dendrometers" in a remote forest located in the northern part of Costa Rica, to measure forest growth. Also, sensors will be used for temperature, humidity, rain, wind direction, and air pressure, among other variables.
The dendrometers were designed and built at TEC by its researchers and students, with the objective of providing low cost sensors for developing countries to monitor the effects of climate change. They use ultrasonic waves to measure the diameter of the trees' trunks, while being less invasive than commercial ones.
2) Flight segment: The segment consists of a satellite that will collect the data generated by the sensors and transmit it back to a central location using a satellite-to-ground communication standard platform.
3) Ground segment: The Irazú engineers will build the ground station at TEC, which will include a mission control component. The ground station will provide the retrieved data to a scientific data analysis and visualization system, enabling scientists with all sensor readings to further their climate change research. The Irazú engineers will build the ground station at TEC, which will include a mission control component.
Animated video of Irazú's scientific mission
Launching the First Costa Rican Satellite into Space
Due to a recent agreement established with the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech), this university will be in charge of setting the arrangements for transporting the spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will be deployed using the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), commonly known as Kibo.
The satellite is expected to be launched in 2017.
JAXA´s video: Deployment of a CubeSat from the ISS
IMPACT: Why this proiect?
Irazú will be historical for Costa Rica since no other program like this has ever been attempted. The results will not only demonstrate a platform to measure the effects of climate change but also the establishment of an infrastructure in the country that will allow and promote the development of future space missions. Once Irazú is completed, our vision is to scale the project to a larger magnitude by having sensors monitoring forests all around Central America. Additionally, various public outreach activities are planned in order to generate more interest in the Costa Rican science and technology fields, aiming to boost the proliferation of future scientists and engineers.
This launch will position us in front of the world as one of the countries that already have their own space programs of research and technology development. A path the world’s space leaders have travelled, encouraging collaboration, partnerships, and opening doors for our scientific community.
The amount we need to raise is insignificant compared to the benefits that the project will bring to Costa Rica. Our Kickstater campaign is much more than a fundraising campaign, we want this project to be not only of ACAE or TEC, but of all of you.
Here´s how you come in
Irazú Project: The total cost of launching this CubeSat into space is almost $500,000, and we are nearly there. By helping us reach the last $75,000 you will make it possible to launch this satellite into space timely in 2017.
Ditsö Project: This is ACAE’s second largest space project. Its main objective is to establish the organizational, scientific and technical foundations in order to provide Costa Ricans with access to first-class laboratories in the space field, in this case by launching experiments to the ISS using the service provided by NanoRacks.
The scientific objective of the first mission "Ditsö I", is to take to the next level a research conducted by the University of Costa Rica (UCR). This research will study the (mechanical/thermal/radiation) properties of the Chrysina Chrysargyrea elytra, a type of beetle native to Costa Rican forests, in order to determine the ability to replicate these properties in a synthetic material to protect spacecraft and satellites in space.
All the extra amount that we collect will be used for this second project. So, every contribution counts! With your support you could take the first Costa Rican satellite into space, and enable the successful deployment of the first Costa Rican experiment onboard the International Space Station.
Irazú's Amazing Pannel of Experts
The team consists of students, professors, researchers and expert consultants from all around the world. The core team consists of Costa Rican citizens from various disciplines including engineering, science, public relations and business, among others.
- Marco Gómez Jenkins, Project Manager (TEC / ACAE)
- Alfredo Valverde Salazar, Deputy Project Manager (Georgia Tech)
- Carlos Alvarado Briceño, President of ACAE and Business Relations Manager (ACAE)
- Julio Calvo Alvarado, Director of TEC and Head Scientific Researcher (TEC)
- Ana Julieta Calvo Obando, Associate Scientific Researcher (TEC)
- Johan Carvajal Godínez, Systems Engineer (TU Delft / TEC)
- Adolfo Chaves Jiménez, Lead Design Engineer (TU Delft / TEC)
- Julio Ramírez Molina, Satellite Communications Expert (DLR)
- Adriana Chavarría Flores, Communications and Public Affairs Officer (ACAE)
As well as other talented staff and students from TEC .
A shout-out to our partners
We would like to thank our strategic partners and sponsors who have made this dream a reality:
Partners and Sponsors:
Additionally, we would like to acknowledge our collaborators. These are organizations that have contributed to the project with technical designs, spacecraft components, web design, etc., and who also play a very important role in our team:
Web and Graphic Design:
The project is divided into seven phases, based on NASA’s project lifecyle. The first three phases have already been completed and the technical team is currently working on the final design. All phases require the creation of reports in order to properly document each step of the mission. These have to pass an external review process that consists of expert consultants evaluating and approving the documentation.
Risks and challenges
Every space mission comes with risks, mainly due to the challenges of operating in orbit. Not only is it a vacuum, radiation-filled environment with large temperature changes, but once you place the CubeSat in orbit, there is no way to go up there and fix it. In order to mitigate these risks, we have selected a team of expert consultants to advise us on technical aspects of the mission. Furthermore, we have created strategic alliances in order to test and certify the spacecraft, as well as to launch it into orbit.
The main challenge is developing and executing a space mission in a country that has never attempted one before. By creating an infrastructure with key Costa Rican organizations and by putting together a team of talented Costa Rican citizens, the Irazú team has continuously advanced in the progress of the project and will soon place a satellite in orbit with the help of this campaign.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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