Brazil signs Artemis Accords

Brazil on June 15th became the first South American country to sign the Artemis Accords, designed to bypass the limitations placed on property rights created by the Outer Space Treaty.

U.S. policy requires any nation that wishes to participate in its Artemis program to go back to the Moon to agree to the accords. Brazil is now the eleventh country to sign, joining Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and the United States.

Russia and China oppose the accords, which causes a problem for Russia as it desperately needs to partner with someone because it can’t on its own afford to build much. It is negotiating possible partnerships with China at its new space station as well as building a base on the Moon, but those agreements are not firm. And continues to send out feelers, including statements by Putin, calling for continuing cooperation with the U.S. in space.

Whether the Biden administration will make an exception for Russia in regards to the Artemis Accords remains unclear. That twelve countries have agreed to the accords however gives the U.S. greater leverage with those countries that have not yet signed.

Virgin Orbit signs deal with Brazil to launch from that country

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit and the Brazilian Space Agency have signed an agreement to allow the company to launch satellites from one of its facilities.

Launches would occur from the Alcântara Launch Center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA) on Brazil’s northern coast, located just two degrees south of the equator. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, which uses a customized 747 aircraft as its flying launch pad and fully reusable first stage, could conduct launches from the existing airbase at the site, flying hundreds of miles before releasing the rocket directly above the equator or at other locations optimized for each individual mission. The approach enables Alcântara to become one of the only continental spaceports in the world capable of reaching any orbital inclination.

This is an excellent deal for both. Brazil gets some commercial space business, and Virgin Orbit’s 747 will no longer have to fly long distances to get to an equator launch point.

A Russia/Brazil partnership for Sea Launch?

The competition heats up: Russia is negotiating a partnership with Brazil to operate Sea Launch.

The Sea Launch rocket is built by Ukraine, which presently has hostile relations with Russia, to say the least. The platform, built with Boeing money, is presently docked on the the U.S. west coast, which is also not what Russia wants. Moving it to Brazil and adapting it for use with a Brazilian rocket solves both problems, though the usability of Brazil’s rocket is at this moment quite questionable.

A new housecat-sized feline species has been discovered in Brazil.

A new housecat-sized feline species has been discovered in Brazil.

Oncillas are housecat-size felines found throughout much of South America, and are also known as little tiger cats, little spotted cats or tigrinas. But not all oncillas are the same: New research suggests that little tiger cats in northeastern Brazil belong to a different species from those elsewhere on the continent, although they look virtually identical.

Researchers analyzed the genetic material of oncillas in northeastern Brazil, and compared them with nearby populations in the south. They found that there was no flow of genes between the two populations of oncillas, and hasn’t been any for millennia, according to the study, published today (Nov. 27) in the journal Current Biology.

This, along with other genetic differences, led researchers to conclude the two populations do not interbreed and are in fact different species, said study co-author Eduardo Eizirik, a researcher at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.