The incredible story of the first Argentine mini satellite that weighs less than 1 kilo and was launched by Elon Musk

The project was developed by a teacher and two students from a technical school in Mar del Plata. It is the first of a constellation of miniature satellites

The story of Innova Space, the startup from Mar del Plata that built the first “picosatellite“Argentino (a miniature satellite) launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral, is the story of the dream of a high school teacher and his students.

It all started in 2019, when Alejandro Cordero (46), a teacher at Technical School number 5 in Mar del Plata, proposed a disruptive practical job to his students: build a satellite. “At first they thought I was crazy, but then they got hooked,” said the CEO of Innova Space, founded together with two of his former students: Luca Uriarte (20) and Iván Mellina (20).

“We all began to investigate together what a satellite was, how it was made. While building the satellite, the boys had to learn English, mathematics, physics“, he detailed. With the first prototype they began to appear in the media, first local, then national, and at the end of that year they traveled to Scotland for the first International Picosatellites Congress (so called because they weigh less than a kilo and are smaller than a nanosatellite ).

The project was developed by a teacher and two students from a technical school in Mar del Plata

On the way back from that trip, the Marplatense businessman Maximiliano González Kunz, founder of the Neutrón accelerator, decided to invest in the project, also providing advice on setting up the company and a workspace.

That same year, the MDQUbe-SAT project received the first prize for Innovation from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology. In 2020, it accessed a Non-Refundable Contribution from the Ministry of Productive Development of the Nation for $ 14,500,000. And he won numerous awards such as the Sadosky, awarded by the Chamber of the Software Industry (CESSI); the Prendete contest, organized by the Municipality of Tandil; AGRONAVES, coordinated by the CREA group (association that groups together the chambers of agriculture) and the NAVES competition, organized by Banco Macro Macro and the IAE, which consists of a trip to Israel to contact entrepreneurs and investors from that country.

With the funds obtained, the entrepreneurs set up the first satellite, named “General San Martín”, which It was launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral by Space X, the aerospace company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, owner of Tesla.

The San Martín is the first of the constellation of satellites “Libertadores de América”, and its function is “to provide connectivity for the Internet of Things, especially in agricultural areas and parts of the country with little or no connectivity,” explained Cordero.

Its dimensions and weight are negligible: measures 10x10x5 cm and weighs only 461 grams. Its entire structure fits in the palm of one hand and is equipped with solar panels that provide it with energy, and a platform with a communication, control and orientation system, and an on-board computer.

“The complete platform was designed and developed by our R&D team. The use of COTS components (Off the Shelf Components) allowed the reduction of costs and the acceleration of the project development cycle”, highlighted Cordero, who knew how to be industrial metallurgical but had to close his SME in 2018 and return to teaching as a way of life.

The satellite was launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral by Space X, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk.

Multipurpose satellites for sovereignty

The first application of the San Martín satellite will be for agriculture. “Today silobags have sensors that register if the content is in good condition, or if they have been vandalized. But without connectivity, that information does not reach those who make decisions. We are going to provide that connectivity so that producers can receive it wherever they want. let them be, “explained Cordero.

The satellite was designed to provide communication coverage where there is none, mainly agricultural and mining areas. “This will have an immense impact since it will allow the optimization of processes, increased production, reduction of the environmental impact due to the use of agro-inputs, in addition to achieving a responsible use of water,” said Maximiliano González Kunz, CEO of Neutrón, the accelerator company. of projects.

During the launch, which took place yesterday minutes after 12 noon in Argentina, and was broadcast live from the Neutrón offices, Cordero highlighted, visibly moved, that “we are facing a milestone in the aerospace history of Argentina and Latin America. The ‘General San Martín’ crossed space, the Malvinas are in the sky looking at our satellite sovereignty, “he declared.

Its dimensions and weight are negligible: it measures 10x10x5 cm and weighs only 461 grams

The countdown was followed remotely by President Alberto Fernández, Development Minister Matías Kulfas and various national, provincial and local officials.

As of yesterday, General San Martín orbits the Earth at a distance of 450 kilometers, and will soon be accompanied by other picosatellites, forming a constellation.

This is just the beginning, Cordero warned: “We have already started work on the second part of the mission, which is the construction of 2 new picosatellites – named Juana Azurduy and Simón Bolívar – for the next launch, scheduled for October. This year we are going to launch between 4 and 6 picosatellites, and next year between 12 and 16. We estimate that by the end of 2023 we will be ready to design the final platform, which will allow us to start commercialization, in early 2024, with the launch of around 90 picosatellites that will make up the constellation ‘Libertadores de América’ “, announced the teacher who dreamed so big that his project reached the stratosphere.

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