The presence of Costa Rican engineers at NASA, the launch of the 1st satellite with the national flag and the creation of a specialized laboratory at the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC), is proof that the aerospace industry is growing in the country.
The most recent milestone was the internship of 3 Costa Ricans at NASA, who collaborated in the development and improvement of equipment and computer programs for the new generation of robots that will be used on the International Space Station to support astronauts.
Mariela Rojas, Jonathan Rojas, and Sergio Vargas spent 3 months at NASA’s AMES Center, where they were part of the development of the Astrobee (space robots).
Last April, the 1st satellite in the history of Costa Rica and Central America was also launched, the Irazú Project, which monitors space carbon fixation and records the growth of trees in the northern part of the country.
This project, in which the TEC and the Kyushu Technological Institute of Japan were involved, allowed the Costa Rican university to enter the International Astronautical Federation in 2017.
There are associated the great agencies of the topic worldwide, such as NASA, the European Space Agency, the Japanese Agency of Aerospace Exploration, and the Russian Federal Space Agency; as well as the leading private companies, such as SpaceX, Boeing, Airbus, and Blue Origin, among others.
In addition to these contributions, in 2017 the Space Systems Laboratory of TEC (SETec) was created, the 1st of its kind in Central America. It should be noted that 11 Costa Ricans have worked for NASA in different positions, including astronauts, as in the case of Franklin Chang.
Interview with Adolfo Chaves, Director of SETec
What is the mission of the SETec?
Our mission is to promote the use of space engineering as a development tool. From the laboratory we investigate and develop space projects, taking advantage of all the engineering available in the Technological.
What do you think has been the main contribution of Costa Rica to the aerospace industry?
To date, I do not believe that there is a milestone that exceeds the missions of Franklin Chang (…), or the work of Sandra Cauffman for NASA; but of works properly done in Costa Rica, for the moment the most important thing has been the space mission of the Irazú Project.
What position does Costa Rica have in the Latin American aerospace industry?
In Latin America, there are 2 countries that are definitely at the top, which are Brazil and Argentina. There are others in a 2nd tier, such as Mexico and Peru, who operate their own satellites. And then, there is a 3rd step where I would place Costa Rica, which by size, still does not operate its own large-scale satellites.