This story that was shared by Mr. T.M. (who deserves a big thank you for spotting it) really grabbed my attention. Portugal, it seems, has now joined the very small but growing list of countries planning space ports, but this one, in the Azores, has some very unusual features that form the context for today's high octane speculation. Here's the story:
Here's the part that made my suspicion meter flip all the way into the red zone:
One of the islands of the Azores archipelago, Santa Maria, may soon become a base for launching small satellites, unique in Europe (the spaceport will deal with launching only small satellites, unlike the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana). Currently, companies from eight countries are competing for the right to use the port.
Fourteen enterprises from the US, Russia, Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Portugal have submitted applications for the first stage of Atlantic International Satellite Launch Programme.
For example, in July the Portuguese sent a recent study to the agency outlining the reasons for building a spaceport on the Azores. The document mentions that the location of the island of Santa Maria is well suited for launching such objects.
Messina explained: "The island is in the middle of the Atlantic, far from other populated territories, which provides greater security of launches."
Now why did all this make my suspicion meter go into the red zone? From the standpoint of rocket launches, having a base as close to the equator as possible makes some physics sense, as the angular velocity of the Earth can be used to enhance the lift of the rockets. But that's not what the article focuses on. Rather, it focuses on two things: (1) the international nature of the spaceport facility, with corporations and various nations vying for a spot, and (2) the fact that the island is isolated, and can provide "greater security of launches." Given that yesterday I blogged about the possibility of some sort of covert international coordination of the early American and Soviet space programs, this little bit about "security for launches" has me once again entertaining similar suspicions...
... and not just because of the international aspect of the project, but also because of the presumed technology (rockets), versus the possibility that some other, more exotic methods might be envisioned, and that "people" would want to keep such "more exotic methods" far from the prying eyes of the public, especially if such "exotic methods" were part of some international consortium.
And while we're entertaining such high octane speculations, there's another possibility, namely, that such a remote place could also be used, not just for launches, but for "return flights", so to speak...
So, yes, I'm suspicious that we're not being told the whole story here, and part of that suspicion comes from the fact that while this is billed as a Portuguese project, that government appears to be but the cover for this deeper international activity, as it's only putting up a mere five million euros to the project, mere blue chicken feed by space program standards.