Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales

Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE; in English, National Space Activities Commission) is the civilian agency of the government of Argentina in charge of the national space program.

National Space Activities Commission
Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales
Agency overview
FormedJanuary 28, 1960 (1960-01-28) (As CNIE) May 28, 1991 (1991-05-28) (As CONAE)
Preceding agency
JurisdictionArgentine government
HeadquartersBuenos Aires, A.C.
Annual budget 1.963 billion ARS ($45.3 million) (2019)[1]
Agency executive
  • Raúl Kulichevsky[2], Executive and Technical Director


Sociedad Argentina Interplanetaria

During the 1940s Teofilo Tabanera organized a group of foreign and Argentine specialists as the Sociedad Argentina Interplanetaria, SAI (Argentine Interplanetary Society). Tabanera's efforts ensured that Argentina was the first Latin American nation to create a spaceflight organization and in 1952 was one of the founding members of the International Astronautical Federation. Argentine Aldo Cocca was a pioneer in space law and helped originate the idea of space being the common heritage of humankind, later enshrined in United Nations treaties of the 1960s.

Comisión Nacional de Investigaciones Espaciales

In 1960 Tabanera was named head of the newly created Comisión Nacional de Investigaciones Espaciales CNIE (National Commission for Space Research), a forerunner agency founded in 1960.

CNIE worked with the Argentine Air Force's Instituto de Investigaciones Aeronáuticas y Espaciales (IIAE) to develop a number of indigenous multistage high-altitude sounding rockets and missiles. Argentina was the first country in Latin America to send an object into space using an indigenously-developed rocket.

During the 1970s Argentina regularly launched the American two-stage solid-propellant Castor rocket up to 500 kilometers altitude. This rocket carried international experiments for several countries.

Condor Program

In the 1980s Argentina took part in a multinational effort to develop the Condor missile. Under U.S. pressure, the Condor Program was canceled in 1991. The associated development and production facilities at Falda del Carmen were closed down, the Fabrica Militar de Aviones, which concentrated on development of surveillance satellites for earth resource and environmental monitoring.

Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales

The present commission (CONAE) was created on May 28, 1991 during the government of Carlos Menem, after the cancellation of the military Condor missile program in an attempt to move all the commission efforts to civilian purposes. It received the Air Force aerospace facilities in Córdoba and Buenos Aires of the former CNIE, as well as some of the civil personnel involved in the canceled project.

Since the 1990s the new commission signed agreements with NASA and European agencies and has developed a number of Earth Observation satellites, including SAC-A, the failed mission SAC-B, and the SAC-C launched in 2000 and still operating.

The administration of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner renationalized Fabrica Militar de Aviones in 2009 and the Falda del Carmen facility has been reactivated to support the development of the new Tronador II rocket. Defense missile and rocket development has been restarted under the umbrella of CITEFA.

Teofilo Tabanera Space Center

The Teofilo Tabanera Space Center, or CETT (Centro Espacial Teofilo Tabanera), is located 30 km southwest from Cordoba City, in a region called Falda del Carmen and houses the following installations:

Cordoba Ground Station

Responsible for the tracking, command and control (TT&C) of the Argentine satellites, and for the ingestion, cataloging and archiving of satellite data products. CONAE's Córdoba Ground Station (ETC) has been in operation since 1997. It has capacity for data reception and TT&C. Currently, it receives data from 12 international satellites, besides the data from Argentine missions. The National Space Program foresees the setting up of a second ground station in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego Province, at the southern tip of Argentina, to enable the collection of data on the Antarctic continent.[3]

Mission Operation Center

Responsible for planning, commands elaboration and monitoring the Argentine satellites. Today the SAC-C Mission Operation Center is fully operative and SAC-D MOC is being implemented in order to control the future SAC-D/Aquarius satellites.

Testing and Integration Facilities

In charge of integrating domestic satellites and running environmental and qualification tests.

Institute for Advance Space Studies "Mario Gulich"

For the promotion of advanced knowledge and innovative use of space information; it also aims at developing highly skilled human resources.It has been named in honor of former CONAE physicist Mario Gulich, who conceived the first Argentine satellite for scientific applications: the SAC-B. Mr. Gulich died in 1994.

Tronador II test site

CONAE built a rocket test site[4] at Las Pipinas, Punta Indio Partido in the Buenos Aires Province, named "Polo Espacial de Punta Indio". It's intended to test the Vex rockets, technological demonstrators for the Tronador II launcher.

Tronador II launch site

The Tronador launch site will be called "Complejo Argentino de Acceso Al Espacio" (Argentine Space Access complex). It's located at Punta Alta, some 578 km from Buenos Aires.The site is located inside the Marine's camp Base de Baterías.[5]

Satellite systems

The national space program provides for two satellite series and both are devoted to Earth Observation: one with main Argentine instruments in the optical range (SAC) and the other one in the microwave range (SAOCOM).[6]

SAC series

The SAC series has been developed by the CONAE together with the Argentine company INVAP and a number of local universities, in close cooperation with the NASA. It has also included the participation of Brazil, Denmark, Italy and Germany.

Currently three Argentine satellites have been launched: SAC-B, which was devoted to scientific research; SAC-A, a technological demonstration satellite, and SAC-C, the first Earth Observation Satellite of Argentina.[7]

In this context, CONAE has joined efforts with NASA in the creation of the First International Earth Observation Constellation, with Argentine SAC-C and the U.S. Landsat 7, EO-1 and Terra missions.[8]

The most recent satellite launched by CONAE was SAC-D/Aquarius, which was launched on June 10, 2011.[9] It will carry the NASA-provided Aquarius mission for taking measurements of sea salinity which will contribute to the better understanding of the environment, together with CONAE-provided sensors which will contribute to monitoring possible fire focuses.[10]

Past missions

  • SAC-A: December 3, 1998 (Space Shuttle). Conceived to test systems and as a technological model.
  • SAC-B: November 4, 1996 (Pegasus rocket). The first Argentinian scientific satellite, whose main goal was the study of solar physics and astrophysics. Launching problems prevented it from been deployed in orbit. As it was still attached to the rocket, it could not extend its solar panels and was only operated while the batteries lasted.
  • SAC-C: November 21, 2000 (Delta rocket). Still operational. Launched as part of the AM Constellation together with NASA's Landsat 7, TERRA and EO-1. Carries a Multispectral mid resolution sensor (MMRS), a high resolution technological camera (HRTC), a high sensitivity camera (HSTC) and the GPS Occultation and Passive reflection experiment (GOLPE). All instruments where provided by CONAE except GOLPE, which was provided by NASA.
  • SAC-D/Aquarius: SAC-D was launched on June 10, 2011.[9] Part of a cooperation program between CONAE and NASA (Goddard Space Flight Center and JPL). It carries seven instruments to study the environment, and a technology demonstration.

Future missions

SAOCOM series

On the other hand, the SAOCOM series involves the construction of two missions with an L-band full polarimetric Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) as main payload, with Belgium and Italian partnership.[13]

Future missions


The SARE satellites are under study. They will weight around 200 kg and employ nanotechnology.

Launch Vehicles

The Tronador (rocket), under development, is a multi-stage satellite launcher. It is expect to start flight tests in 2012. The T-4000 third stage test-rocket (with a diameter of 438mm) is also being developed, with the current version using a liquid propellant engine of 40 kN trust.[14] However, in the last 4 years 1 third stage prototype and 1 first stage pre-prototype launch attempts have been unsuccessful. The last of these attempts ended with the rocket falling in the side of the launcher structure without any fire or explosion due the rocket being loaded with only 460 kg of fuel for a short combustion in order to test the engine in flight for a few seconds, no material, human or environmental harm resulting.[15]

Airborne Systems

CONAE is actually operating a self developed airborne SAR called SARAT. The radar is capable of obtaining full polarimetric L band data with a resolution of 3 x 0.4 m. It is intended as a pre-SAOCOM test bench.

International cooperation

These missions will be part of the Italian-Argentine System of Satellites for Emergency Management (SIASGE), together with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed missions (see related article Orfeo Programme). Knowing the great advantages of combining the information provided by L and X Band radars and the convenience of a shorter revisit period, Argentina and Italy are joining efforts to develop this system, which will be fully devoted the provision of information to lessen the consequences of natural disasters.

CONAE, in July 2003, joined the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, which aims to provide a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users.

The agency secured an agreement with the European Space Agency on June 24, 2009 for the installation of a 35-m antenna and other mission support facilities at the Pierre Auger Observatory, near Malargüe, Mendoza. The facility will contribute to the ESA's Mars Express, Venus Express, and Rosetta space probe projects, as well as CONAE's own, domestic research and the ESA's planned Deep Space project. One of only three such ESA installations in the world, the new antenna will create a triangulation which will allow the ESA to ensure mission coverage around the clock.[16][17]

See also


  2. "Nombramiento del Nuevo Director Ejecutivo y Técnico de la CONAE". CONAE (in Spanish). 14 May 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2009-05-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. CONAE official satellite missions profile Archived February 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. SAC-B official mission profile Archived 2007-07-15 at the Wayback Machine
  8. SAC-C official mission profile Archived 2007-07-15 at the Wayback Machine
  9. "NASA's 'Age of Aquarius' Dawns With California Launch". NASA GSFC. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
  10. SAC-D official mission profile Archived 2009-03-26 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2012-07-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-03. Retrieved 2012-07-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. CONAE official SAOCOM missions profile Archived 2009-04-30 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Buenos Aires Herald: Interplanetary support station to be installed in Argentina
  17. Argentina Noticias: ESA will install an antenna in Mendoza Archived 2011-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
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