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Call for Launching of Satellites in the Azores has received 14 proposals

The 1st phase of the Atlantic International Satellite Launch Program has received 14 proposals of interest from international consortia, which expressed interest in collaborating with Portuguese companies and national research and engineering centers to design, install and operate a space port on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores. This initiative was launched last September in partnership between Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) and the Mission Structure of the Azores for Space (EMA - Space), with the technical support of the European Space Agency (ESA).

This phase ended on 31 October 2018 and consisted of expressions of interest from entities that can assure the development and operation of a new generation of satellite launch services to space. The 14 expressions of interest submitted include worldwide companies (11 from EU, 2 from USA and 1 from Russia), which together have declared an interest in acting throughout the value chain associated with the new generation of small satellite launch services to space. It should be noted that the proposals include innovative access to space solutions based on microlaunchers (representing 7 proposals), systems and software engineering products and services as well as ground infrastructures.

This initiative, which consists of several distinct phases, aims to stimulate the creation of qualified employment and the leverage of new projects of a spatial nature with great added value that can guarantee the increase and a new impetus for the projects already existing in the Island of Santa Maria, as well as to the national research and technological development companies and centers in this sector, positioning the country and the region in the development of a new generation of space activities based on small satellites. The expectation is that, after all phases of evaluation and analysis of feasibility conditions and contractual processes, the first launch services start operating in the Azores in the Spring/Summer of 2021.

The 14 expressions of interest will now be analysed by a High Level Scientific Committee, composed of 9 national and international experts of recognized international merit and coordinated by Jean Jacques Dordain, former Director General of ESA (Annex 2). The first meeting of this Committee will be held at the beginning of November 2018, and will aim to recommend a short list of candidates which will participate to the 2nd phase of the competitive bidding, and define the headlines of the Call for Tender for the 2nd phase (Competitive Bidding Phase).

The selection process will proceed with the following steps:

  • January-February 2019 (date to be defined): Closing date for the submission of outline proposals, containing the required essential information, of the "International Call for Tender for Launch Services to Space from the Island of Santa Maria";
  • February-March 2019: Assessment process, including a public presentation of bids.
  • March-May 2019: Final Assessment Phase.
  • End of April 2019: Final negotiation with Enterprises/Consortia.
  • April/May 2019: Establishment of a contract for the development and operation of the Spaceport.
  • May/June 2019 to May/June 2021 (2 years): analysis and external assessment of Implementation phase.
  • Spring/Summer 2021: First expected launch services operating from the Azores

List of companies submitting expressions of interest in the first phase of the Atlantic International Satellite Launch Programme: 

Leader of the consortium


1. ArianeGroup

France/The Netherlands

2. Astos Solutions GmbH




4. Elecnor DEIMOS Group




6. GTD


7. Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH


8. PLD Space


9. Rocket Factory Augsburg




11. Sierra Nevada Corporation

United States of America

12. Valispace


13. Virgin Orbit LLC

United States of America

14. Vertiv Integrated Systems GmbH