BEIJING – Ecuador entered the space race Friday after putting into orbit its first domestically produced satellite, the Pegasus 01, which was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.
The launch, which took place with the blasting off of the Chinese unmanned LM2D satellite-carrier rocket, was right on schedule at 12:13 p.m.
The Pegasus, a cube measuring 10 by 10 centimeters (4 by 4 inches) and weighing 1.2 kilos (2 2/3 pounds), will transmit direct images and videos from space for educational and scientific purposes.
The nanosatellite, created by the Ecuadorian Civil Space Agency, or EXA, separated from the launch rocket at some 650 kilometers (400 miles) above Earth, 13 minutes after takeoff at 12:26 p.m.
As EXA technician Jaime Jaramillo told Efe, the satellite can take from six to 12 hours to transmit its first images, since it must first carry out a series of procedures, such as geomagnetic stabilization and the complete display of its antennas and solar panels.
“The scientific purpose is to test the technology with which the satellite was constructed,” Jaramillo said, adding that the fact of putting a camera 650 kilometers (400 miles) into space that transmits live images is “a historic landmark for Ecuador and for the world.”
In building the Pegasus, EXA and other private companies invested $80,000, while the Ecuadorian government contributed approximately $700,000 for the launch, insurance, logistics and certification trials.
Ecuador is not the first Latin American country to launch satellites using Chinese satellite-carrier rockets – Venezuela did so twice from the Asian giant’s space station. EFE