Saocom 1B, the Argentine satellite that SpaceX will put into orbit and will be key to the country

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The Saocom 1B will join its twin, launched in 2018, and will complete the deployment of six space artifacts of the Italo-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management. By mapping the soil moisture below the surface, it is expected to control floods and boost agriculture in Argentina. SpaceX will put it into orbit this year.

In a new milestone for the history of science and technology in South America, Argentina completed the construction of new satellite of national industry Saocom 1B, which was already sent from the city of Bariloche, province of Río Negro, to the site from where it will be launched into space.

“The most important mission it has is to generate maps of soil moisture and allow small variations to be identified, in addition to land displacements, and with that support the agricultural and livestock industry, hydrology and emergencies of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides” Laura Frulla, Earth Observation Manager of the National Space Activities Commission (Conae), told Sputnik.

The satellite was developed by the national space agency in conjunction with Invap, Rio Negro state technology company, also responsible for the development of Arsat communications satellites.

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                    Photo: Courtesy CONAE

The 10 meter wide antenna of the SAOCOM 1B

It has a 10 meter wide antenna with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that uses microwaves in the L band, so it has penetration capacity below the earth’s surface.

The Saocom 1B has an estimated launch date for the end of March from Cape Canaveral, in Florida, USA, transported by a company rocket Spacex, owned by the eccentric businessman Elon Musk.
The Saocom 1B is identical to the Saocom 1A, launched in October 2018, and after calibration and commissioning – a process that can last more than six months – will complete the deployment of the six space artifacts that make up the Italo System. Argentine Satellite for Emergency Management (Siasge), which will share information with the other four, of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
“We are developing two products together with the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA). One gives support to optimize the use of fertilizers, the timing of irrigation and planting to maximize yields [rendimientos], the other gives support to control fusariosis, a fungus that attacks wheat production, “said the principal investigator of the Saocom mission.

Frulla commented that, through multitemporal studies of water recurrence, it could be measured if a space meets the needs of constant levels that rice cultivation requires or measure whether it is suitable for real estate development, for example.

Protection of natural resources

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                    Photo: Courtesy CONAE

Saocom 1B will complete the constellation of the Italo-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management (SIASGE)

The putting into orbit of Saocom 1A allowed Conae to pass flood guides to the National Water Institute (INA), which reports on the susceptibility of rivers to overflowing before a particular weather event, Frulla explained. The 1B will enhance these capabilities.

In addition, this technology allows to carry out digital models of elevation, which has multiple applications such as planting and livestock, the layout of routes or railways, for modeling hydrological resources, runoff and drainage maps in cities, and identify points of natural accumulation of water.

“Applied to the care of the environment, the information captured by these satellites will support the laws protecting forests, glaciers, and wetlands. As the L band can penetrate the ground, you can see if under the canopy trees grow an undergrowth with different stages of growth, for example, “said the researcher at Conae.

These satellites have the advantage, compared to those who limit themselves to the capture of images, to process information without depending on whether it is day or visibility, a huge limitation in regions of high cloudiness.

“In parallel, we are developing the Argentine-Brazilian Satellite for Information of the Sea (Sabia-Mar), a satellite specialized in the study of the ocean, which has already passed the critical design review, “said Frulla, referring to the cooperation project with the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) of Brazil , and which has an estimated release date for 2022.

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