The TEC Space Program: a university approach for the utilization of space as a tool of development in Costa Rica
The Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC), in cooperation with the Central American Association for Aeronautics and Space (ACAE), developed the first Central America Satellite: Project Irazú. This satellite is a one-unit (1U) CubeSat that works as a store-and-forward (S&F) system, transmitting the information of ground sensors measuring tree growing in a remote location in Costa Rica. TEC was in charge the technological development of both the space and ground segments of this project and operates the device.
In the context of Project Irazú, the Electronic Engineering School of TEC founded in July 2017 the Space Systems Engineering Laboratory (SETEC Lab).
SETEC Lab is the first laboratory of its kind in Central America. Its mission is to take advantage of the capabilities of TEC to use space engineering as a tool of development in Costa Rica, and its vision is to lead the space research and development in the country.
The environmental monitoring methods enabled by satellite technology from SETEC Lab have potential to provide automatically daily data to natural resources researchers. This capability was proven with the tree growing monitoring system of Project Irazú. For these reasons, the development efforts of the laboratory are focused in environmental monitoring.
SETEC Lab research focus area is spacecraft navigation, because its staff is specialized in this field of study, and at the same time, the development of navigation systems contribute to the improvement of satellite environmental monitoring performance. This capability is seen as complementary to the capabilities of other international partners with whom the laboratory is currently cooperating.
Currently, SETEC Lab is developing a second mission with George Washington University (GWSat), where TEC develops the navigation system and the environmental monitoring communication system. Also, a joint mission with partners from Guatemala for forest monitoring is under design. SETEC Lab is part of the BIRDS efforts lead by the Kyushu Institute of Technology, with focus on S&F systems for environmental monitoring.
Finally, and as a consequence of all efforts in Costa Rica, SETEC Lab has been a main technical advisor for the proposal of the Costa Rican Space Agency, an agency proposed using Industry 4.0 concepts, that is looking to take advantage of the competitive advantages of Costa Rica as a player in the space engineering development, for example, by using its biodiversity for experiments, its geographical location for telecommunications services and launches, and its capable workforce for mission design.
In this presentation, the past, current and future work of SETEC Lab is presented, in the context of its research and development areas.
Adolfo Chaves-Jiménez is an Electronics Engineer, lecturer and researcher, and Coordinator of the Space Systems Engineering Laboratory (SETEC Lab) of the School of Electronics of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC). Experience in the design of the Delfi n3Xt satellite from the Delft University of Technology, Project Irazú of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (first Central American satellite), and GWSat, a joint mission of TEC with the George Washington University. Systems and Control Specialist from the Dutch Institute of Systems and Control. Currently a PhD promovendus in Space Systems Engineering from the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. Cowriter of the proposal for the Costarrican Space Agency, currently under discussion in the Costa Rica Congress.