Peru’s new satellite is scheduled to be launched from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guyana, in mid-September. PeruSat-1, the name of the satellite, will be the new crown jewel of the Peruvian space program led by the National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development (Comisión Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Aeroespacial; CONIDA).
In 2014 the Peruvian and French governments signed an agreement for the construction of PeruSat-1. The satellite was manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space, based on theAstroBus-S platform. A March 2015 press release by the aerospace company explains how “PeruSat-1 is also the first programme run by the Projects Factory, a new and more integrated working organisation in the Space System business unit. This new way of working brings down development and construction lead times for satellites up to 500 kg and optimises their costs, without impacting quality in any way.”
The satellite was constructed at the Airbus facilities in Toulouse, France. Peruvian scientists and officers have regularly travelled to the French city to supervise the construction as well as to receive training on how to operate the satellite.
CONIDA has constructed a new facility to control PeruSat-1, called the National Center for Satellite Imagery Operations (Centro Nacional de Operaciones de Imágenes Satelitales; CNOIS). The facilities occupy 15 hectares and are located in Punta Lobos, south of Lima.
According to the Peruvian media, PeruSat-1 will be utilized for various activities, such as monitoring weather patterns, which will help Peru’s agro-industry and to address natural disasters. Additionally, the satellite will help with internal security, as it can be utilized for border surveillance as well as to combat illicit activities like illegal mining or illegal logging.
When the deal was first announced in 2014, it attracted a fair amount of politically-influenced criticism against the then Ollanta Humala-administration. The main argument was that the satellite was too expensive (it reportedly cost USD$213 million), and CONIDA could have gotten obtained two smaller satellites for the same amount. It is the opinion of this author that the Humala government was correct in acquiring one heavy (it reportedly weights over 300kg) satellite, which will be the cornerstone of the country’s space program for the immediate future.
CONIDA has been busy in recent years as, apart from the satellite, it successfully carries out other projects. In 2013 the center launched its first rocket built domestically. The Paulet 1-B reportedly managed to travel vertically 15km. Additionally, CONIDA has organized workshops on the issue of satellites for defense. For example in 2015, the agency hosted a seminar for members of the Peruvian armed forces, entitled “Optical Satellite Imagery and Defense.”
CONIDA was established in June 1974 by the military government of General Juan Velasco Alvarado. Its staff is compromised of Peruvian scientists, technicians and members of the military (particularly the Air Force). Its headquarters are located in San Isidro, downtown Lima, and it also has the aforementioned testing center and future CNOIS base called Punta Lobos in Pucusana, south of Lima. CONIDA’s current director is Air Force General Carlos Rodríguez Pajares.
While expensive, PeruSat-1 is a major accomplishment for the Peruvian space program which needed to take the next leap forward in order to have a bigger presence in spatial affairs and to carry out more projects for the benefit of Peruvian society. In five years time Peru will celebrate its bicentennial independence anniversary, and it should welcome this milestone by having the Peruvian flag proudly displayed both in Earth and space.
Marvel Comics’ Captain America: Steve Rogers has made news in recent months because of its premise: the All-American hero Steve Rogers turns out to be an agent of the fictional evil organization Hydra.
The comic book storyline so far is as follows: the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, is revealed to be a sleeper agent for Hydra. Issue #2 explains that Captain’s evil nemesis, the Red Skull, utilized a supernatural being called a Cosmic Cube to essentially rewrite Captain America’s past, convincing Rogers’ mother to attend Hydra meetings in New York, while bringing along a teenager Rogers. In issue #1, while carrying out a mission to apparently rescue a hostage from a gang of villains, Rogers whispers the infamous line “Hail Hydra.” Without going into detail regarding its various iterations, suffice to say that Hydra is part of the Nazi machine. In the Marvel movies, Hydra is the scientific wing of the Schutzstaffel, commonly known as the SS, tasked with developing new weapons for the Third Reich during World War II.
The series has attracted major attention, including criticism by fans who do not want to see Captain America become an agent of Hydra. Part of the reason stems from the character’s origins: Captain America first appeared in November 1941 in Captain America Comics #1. He was a super soldier whose raison d’être was supporting the Axis powers (the cover of said comic shows Captain America punching Adolf Hitler). The character was created by two Jewish-American cartoonists working for Timely Comics, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Now, turning Captain America into an agent of a Nazi-related organization has been regarded as some fans as offensive. Even more so because 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the character’s debut.
The plot twist has also attracted mainstream attention. For example, Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort was interviewed by Time magazine about the reasons for the plotline. Meanwhile theWashington Post ran a piece that explains how “the comic-book reading world is buzzing because it looks as though the ultimate symbol of American heroism is a double agent working for the bad guys.”
This is fiction of course, but there are real world parallels, albeit less dramatic ones perhaps. In past years, there have been several military and intelligence U.S. officers that turned out to be agents working for other governments. Edward Snowden is a prime example, as he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and leaked classified information about global surveillance programs carried out by U.S. intelligence services. He then fled to Russia. Another example isAna Montes, an analyst who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and in 2001 was arrested after having spent 16 years spying for the Cuban government. More recently, this past April a U.S. Navy flight officer, Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin, was arrested due to “espionage charges over suspicions [that] he passed secret information to Taiwan and possibly to China.”
To be fair, there are plenty of other instances of individuals in sensitive positions in other governments that were similarly imprisoned for spying on behalf of the U.S. One prominent example is Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, who worked for the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence. He was arrested and imprisoned, before being released as part of the December 2014 re-start of bilateral relations between Havana and Washington.
There is something morally devastating about discovering that a military or intelligence officer, tasked with protecting a nation, turns out to be an agent that works for “the enemy.” Captain America is, as his name shows, supposed to be the epitome of American patriotism and justice. As Marvel’s Brevoort explains, “there should be a feeling of horror or unsettledness at the idea that somebody like this can secretly be part of this organization… You should feel uneasy about the fact that everything you know and love about Steve Rogers can be upended.”
The same can be said for individuals like Snowden (we will leave for another time a discussion on whether he was justified or not for leaking intelligence secrets), Montes, and Lin, as well as Trujillo on the Cuban side.
Ultimately, Captain America will probably revert back to fighting Hydra instead of fighting for it – for instance, he could turn out to be some sort of double agent. As for the aforementioned real life cases of espionage by members of military and intelligence agencies, it is highly unlikely that it will be revealed that they were working for their home governments all along as part of some disinformation intelligence operation. Now that would be a plot twist.