Costa Rica will have a Space Agency and a Space Center in its territory to investigate issues related to meteorological activities, environmental monitoring, telecommunications management, geographic location, medical diagnosis, energy development, and other related disciplines. The deputies of the Legislative Assembly definitively approved file 21330, which will allow both entities to be founded.
From the start, the norm establishes that the project is financed with donations, “in accordance with the laws that regulate the matter”, and a 0.4% free surplus of various institutions in the next five years. Later it could also access resources through its own operation and the sale of products or services. The initiative was approved in a second debate with the favorable vote of 35 legislators, with the exception of legislators from the independent New Republic bloc.
Guanacaste Space Center
It establishes that the legal address of the Agency would be in San José; However, it created the “Guanacaste Space Center”, in Liberia, as a dependency of the Costa Rican Space Agency (AEC) in which “scientists, specialists and support personnel required for its operation” would work. The Center would be located in Guanacaste due to its geographical and atmospheric conditions.
The new AEC would be a new “non-state public entity”, with “technical, administrative and managerial autonomy”. According to the project, it will only be subject to the guidelines of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications (Micitt) as the governing body in the area of science and technology.
It will be in charge of developing research and technological innovation projects, strengthening the knowledge and development of space research, and promoting space systems and means for the consolidation and self-sufficiency of this sector in Costa Rica.
It will also have to facilitate the incorporation of the productive sector to this activity, provide technical information and advise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship “when it requires it”, and accredit to the National Registry all space objects that are promoted and developed from the Costa Rican territory, among other obligations.
Promoting more scientific vocations
The initiative was promoted since 2019 by the Guanacaste legislator of the National Liberation Party (PLN), Aida Montiel, who has underlined the value of the project so that Costa Rica can enter into agreements with international agencies, including NASA, and to “promote more scientific vocations.” .
His office assures that, only with the amount of the surpluses, the entity could be financed with amounts of between ¢ 2,000 million and ¢ 3,000 million in the next four years. The contribution would be made by public entities for five years, with the exception of the Central Government, municipalities, the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) and Public Universities.
Jonathan Prendas, spokesman for the bloc that voted against the initiative, assured that the decision was made due to substantive disagreements with the initiative, especially because it will use resources that the country currently needs to guarantee its sustainability and could be used for other purposes. As he said, this is what the Ministry of Finance itself told them.
Management bodies and deadlines
The entity will have a Board of Directors and an Executive Directorate. Its board of directors will be made up of five people: those who hold the positions of minister or vice minister of the Micitt and the Chancellery; who exercises the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC), a representative of the private aerospace sector designated by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC); and a representative of the National Council of Rectors (Conare). For its part, the executive management will exercise it every five years, with evaluations every two years, by a person appointed by the Council.
The project gives 45 calendar days for the formation of the Board of Directors, 30 additional calendar days for the appointment of the Executive Directorate and 90 additional days for the “definition of the general lines of the strategic framework of the ACS”.
Likewise, it establishes that whoever holds the Directorate must present a strategic plan within 180 calendar days after his appointment and that within 30 calendar days he must initiate the steps to locate the land in Liberia to build the Space Center, which must be acquired through of a purchase or donation.
“The Board of Directors of the Agency will fill out, within a period not exceeding one year from the appointment of the person who exercises the Executive Direction, the acquisition or donation of the land where the Guanacaste Space Center will be installed”, says the text on that last point.
The bill was finally approved this week despite questions from the Comptroller General’s Office (CGR), which warned of a “lack of clarity” regarding the long-term financing of the initiative. The technical body pointed out, last June, that it lacked support to determine the sustainability and the opportunity to create the new public entity, even more so given the complex situation of state public finances and the effects of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV Pandemic.
The deputies trust that the revenues of the entity will allow to overcome these doubts. This was stated by the independent legislator Zoila Volio in the legislative plenary session, when she emphasized the benefits that the country is expected to advance in the exploration of these types of industries.