Country: Instituto Nacional De Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE)
National Institute of Space Research
Ministry of Science and Technology
Avenida dos Astronautas No. 1758
12227-010 São Jose dos Campos, SP Brazil

WTEC: Ramon P. DePaula (report author), Joseph N. Pelton

Hosts: Decio Castilho Ceballos, Program Manager ECO-8


Brazil created the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) in 1994. The AEB has been coordinating all space activities in Brazil, including an indigenous space program, as a branch of the presidential office. The AEB goals are to establish a national space policy and space program, oversee their execution, and advise the president in this important area.

The space program, started in 1977, is being conducted to develop satellites, launch vehicles and a launching base in a strategic position near of the equator. The objective of this program is develop or induce the development of missions tailored to the country particularities and also take advantage of these missions, by developing expertise, internalizing the investments, developing the Brazilian space industries, and allowing national companies to explore space business opportunities. The industrial development policy is directed to both developing indigenous technologies and stimulating joint ventures witht foreign and local companies. The program includes the following major missions or projects:

MECB program

The Brazilian Complete Space Mission (MECB) was approved in 1979, with an initial goal of design, development, launching and operation of four small size low-orbit data collecting satellite (SCDs) and remote sensing satellites (SSRs), including the ground facilities and a laboratory for integration and testing; design, development and construction of a satellite launching vehicle (VLS); design and implementation of a launch center at Alcântara (CLA). The program was expanded and its past and future programmed launches are: SCD1 (1993), SCD2 (1996), SCD2A (1997), SCD3 (1998), SSR1 (1998)

The MECB is a broad program intending to develop the whole cycle of space technology, from the development of a launch capability to satellite operation and data reception and use.

Main Goals of the MECB Program

  1. To develop human resources and related infrastructure as to enhance space activities in Brazil
  2. To call for partnership with industry in the task of developing space technology
  3. To develop satellites with applications related to specific Brazilian needs (including those of interest to low-latitude regions worldwide).
  4. To engage Brazil in international space programs

The proven importance of satellite applications in Brazil has led to the development of satellite technology. INPE's efforts in this area are aimed at expanding the technical capability required for the advancement of the Brazilian space program. This includes the development of satellites and space systems.

INPE has designed and built for MECB the SCD1 satellite, which has been in orbit since early 1993 dedicated to a data collecting mission.

Four other MECB satellites are at various stages of design, manufacture, testing or preparation for launch. The SCD2 and SCD3 satellites are planned also for data collecting missions. The SCD3 has an additional mission of experimental equatorial telecommunications. The SSR1 and SSR2 satellites are similar and are both planned for remote sensing mission.

The SCD3 Satellite is a data collecting satellite with an experimental communications payload and has the following technical features:

Scheduled to be launched in the end of 1998, the SCD2 satellite will take over data relay activity and will serve as a testbed for an equatorial communication system.

INPE is also responsible for ground facilities for tracking and control and for data processing. The development of the Brazilian launch vehicle (VLS), and the launch base at Alcântara, in Maranhao, are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Aeronautics.

Most of the subsystems for the MECB satellites have been developed by INPE with a growing participation of Brazilian industry. With the purpose of providing the necessary facilities for satellite assembly, integration, and tests, INPE has set up an Integration and Tests Laboratory (LIT), also available for general industrial application.


The China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellites (CBERS) are designed with the following goals in mind:

The Scientific Satellite (SACI) is designed to achieve the following:

geophysical scientific experimentsCBERS secondary launch in 1997

The ECO-8/ECCO system involving INPE, AEB, TELEBRÁS in a joint venture with international companies is intended to provide the following:


INPE, as part of the Ministry of Science and Technology, jointly with industry is carrying out all the above activities for the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB). A history of INPE follows.


In 1991, the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) turned 30 years old. The institution was born on August 3, 1961, with the name of Group of Organization of the National Commission of Space Activities, (GOCNAE). Its initial objectives were the formation of high level personnel and the development of activities in the area of radioastronomy, optical astronomy, optical tracking of artificial satellites and satellite communications.

The GOCNAE was renamed Institute of Space Research in 1971. The Brazilian Commission of Space Activities (COBAE) was also formed in this year, with the mission of directing the goals of the Brazilian space program.

The current name, National Institute of Space Research, was adopted in October 1990. Based in São José dos Campos, where there already was the Technical Aerospace Center (CTA) of the Brazilian Air Force, with the Technical Institute of Aeronautics (ITA), in 1997 INPE had a staff of 1,600 people. Besides the headquarters in São José dos Campos, INPE has research and development facilities at Cachoeira Paulista (SP), Atibaia (SP), Cuiabá (MT), Natal (RN), Alcântara (MA) and Fortaleza (CE). INPE maintains graduate courses in fields related to space activities, and has graduated hundreds of masters and doctoral students.

Today, the INPE carries out important activities in the interest of the country and the world, such as the monitoring of the Amazon rainforest and the development of artificial satellites, either INPE's own or in cooperation with other countries, like CBERS, a joint development with the Peoples' Republic of China.

INPE has been active in the area of satellite communications R&D for some thirty years. This began with cooperative programs with NASA in such activities as the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS-6) and the Communications Technology Satellite program (the joint U.S. and Canadian satellite). In both cases the Brazilian experiments involve small aperture antennas to be used in rural and remote areas such as Manaus to work with the high EIRPs of the ATS-6 and CTS satellites. Brazil was an early member of INTELSAT and EMBRATEL used INTELSAT capacity not only for international connection, but also leased capacity that was used by the Brazilian long distance operator, TELEBRAS, for connection to remote regional centers.

On February 9, 1993 INPE put the SCD-1 into orbit. This was the first Brazilian satellite, designed and built by INPE.


Currently INPE, in its extensive research campus facilities, is engaged in research in a wide range of activities with a good deal of emphasis on satellite applications and particularly telecommunications and remote sensing.

INPE in its early years concentrated on design of new types of antennas such as VSAT and other improved transmission systems such as modems, codecs, and micro-terminals, but increasingly is also addressing space communications payloads.

Over the last five years, INPE has sought to move to the design and deployment of satellites that are appropriate to the needs of Brazil and equatorial countries. Notable in this respect is the INPE developed concept of the ECO-8 satellite. This included the specific engineering and research for the ECO-8 satellite system. This is a network of eight LEO satellites deployed in circular orbit above the equator such that each satellite beam slightly overlaps so that one of the eight satellites is always overhead not only for Brazil, but for all equatorial countries. This design allows broadband communications as well as voice and telephony to be provided to any country in the equatorial region. This system has been filed with the ITU and is scheduled for launch in 1999.

Brazil also has performed development efforts for mobile satellite systems (MSS) services through the ECO-8 system. The ECO-8 has been combined with a private system named Constellation, and this combined project has resulted in the ECCO program. The Equatorial Constellation Communications Organization (ECCO) system is an equatorial constellation of satellites placed in circular orbit at 2,000 km height, designed to provide mobile and fixed digital wireless full duplex telephony (voice, fax, data), two-way message services, and point-to-multipoint special distribution facilities, to enhance mobile services capacity.

ECO-8 General Description

ECO-8 aims to provide cellular quality wireless fixed and mobile voice and data telecommunication services, besides bi-directional pagers. The system was designed to fulfill the particular needs of the tropical zone, characterized by remote and low density populated areas, where the main market drivers are associated with the rural activities. When associated to local repeaters, it can be an ideal solution to providing telecommunications for small villages in remote areas. The system also allows the location of any remote terminal in operation, even if the terminal provides no location information.

Like terrestrial cellular, the ECO-8 system is interconnected with the existing fixed telecommunication network, allowing worldwide access through the Public Switching Telephone Network (PSTN). ECO-8 can also provide real-time connection with data collection platforms located anywhere in the tropical belt.

By appropriately placing various satellites in the same equatorial orbit, it is possible to guarantee that there is always one satellite visible by a user in the equatorial belt covered. The initial configuration foresaw eight satellites plus two for backup placed at 2,000 km altitude. The coverage encompasses most Brazilian territory and parts of Australia, Africa and India, among others. The orbit altitude is sufficiently low to permit the use of portable communications terminals, within the current legal and technical restrictions to satellite and terminal power.

The original project ECO-8 has been changed in several ways from the early phase. The new objectives were reoriented for a commercial approach, international markets and joint ventures. TELEBRÁS assumed the general business administration of the project and is working to internationalize the project in accordance with AEB directives. In parallel, the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) has the assignment to explore opportunities to develop the indigenous space industry, launch site, launchers, integration and testing laboratory and other space activities. It is expected that the partnership and industrial structure definitions will be concluded in 1998.


The ECO-8 system is aimed at serving the telecommunications needs of isolated localities and rural area populations, in the so-called "Equatorial Belt," that is primarily the area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. In this area there are 90 countries with more than 25% of world population and a GNP of $2.5 trillion.

Besides the rural market, ECO-8 will also serve other sectors like transportation, trading and industries in regions where telephone services still do not reach. This market was not considered in cash flow simulations, but a sensitivity analysis was performed to evaluate the impact of these, by changing other services and analysis parameters, which states this market as a percentage of the main one, in the simulations.


The Space Segment

The space segment nominal configuration consists of 12 satellites, 11 operating and one for backup. The satellites are maneuvered in order to keep the appropriated placement for continuous coverage, since the system is able to work with only 10 satellites, with only a small reduction in traffic capacity. The satellites contain the following subsystems: propulsion, structure, power supply, attitude and orbit control, thermal control, telemetry and telecommand, onboard computer, and the payload which includes the transponders and antennas operating in L, S and C-bands.

The Inbound and Outbound Links

The voice or data signals down or up link to the end users in L/S-bands respectively. The approximately 1,000 voice circuits are channeled in C-band to the gateways, which send and receive this information to and from the PSTN.


TELEBRÁS, CCI, E-Systems, Bell Atlantic and the Brazilian Space Agency have discussed a joint venture to combine the ECO-8 with a MSS system named Constellation. The Constellation and ECO-8 technical teams worked together for about six months resulting in a system named ECCO. The ECCO solutions incorporate the best features of both ECO-8 and Constellation. While final commercial agreements are still not closed, technically speaking ECO-8 and Constellation correspond to a unique solution, the ECCO system. Aiming to meet its responsibilities with the ECCO enterprise, and to keep its plans in developing capabilities in LEO communications satellites, INPE organized an internal related management structure keeping the name ECO-8.


In the 1980s, it was decided within Brazil to transition from the leased capacity for domestic telecommunications services to a domestic satellite to cover all of Brazil and also provide some additional coverage for the rest of South America. This project was known as Brazilsat and this network now consists of Brazilsat A-2, B-1, B-2, and B-3. All of these spacecraft were built by Hughes, based on the HS-376 bus design, and have been launched by Arianespace. Brazil's telecommunications market will be fully opened to international competition in no more than three years. Organizations such as Americatel (backed by Telefonica Spain and Entel Chile) as well as many of the major international telecommunications carriers will enter the Brazilian market, and perhaps introduce additional satellite competition either through existing capacity, such as that represented by INTELSAT, Solidaridad or Moreles, PanAmSat, or new systems.

According to the legislation approved by the Brazilian Congress in mid-1996. EMBRATEL will no longer have the monopoly for satellite communications in Brazil.

Today (1998) regulation also sets the rules applicable to the use of a satellite that occupies an orbital position notified by another country, which do not require a specific grant. On the other hand, it adds that any private or public telecommunications service provider which uses the satellite transmitting systems (STS) will depend on a particular grant, to be given preferably to those which employ satellites standing in orbital positions notified by Brazil.

Brazil has employed satellites in its national telecommunications network since 1970, when the first earth station devised for domestic traffic was opened, in Cuiaba city, using the INTELSAT system. In 1985, EMBRATEL launched the Al Brazilsat satellite, from the first generation of the Brazilian Satellite Telecommunications System (SBTS). Nowadays, the second generation of SBTS is fully used by the more than four thousand VSATs and five million TVROs which are spread all over the country. All Brazilian television networks broadcast their signals through Brazilsat satellites and, in the same way, major industries and financial companies have formed their own corporate telecommunications networks by means of the Brazilsat satellites, or through transponders from Galaxy, or PanAmSat. Yet, despite the massive use of satellites by the Brazilian telecommunications networks there is an estimate that the present space segment capacity will probably double in the next five years.


Brazil is very active in satellite communications. INPE will play a key role in the development of future satellite systems for Brazil. Satellites and wireless systems will provide services that are today unavailable from terrestrial communications. The potential market is tremendous, in particular considering a population of about 140 million with only 20% having telephone services.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian