Portugal’s ministry of defence is to invest €1.5 million in the setup of the Optical Observatory of Pico do Areeiro, on the island of Madeira, as part of a European project to monitor space junk.
“Space waste represents a potential danger to our populations and, therefore needs to be monitored, the objects circulating in space need to be characterised and identified and their trajectory needs to be assessed,” minister João Gomes Cravinho said.
He signed a cooperation agreement with the regional government of Madeira, under the Space Surveillance and Tracking Project, a European consortium that aims to monitor space waste through continuous observation from strategic points and permanent treatment of observation data.
“We expect to invest about €1.5 million in 2019 and 2020, possibly more in 2020,” he said, adding that work on the Pico do Areeiro Optical Observatory, at one of the highest points of the island (1,818m), should start in 2020.
The structure includes the installation of two telescopes in two small areas, with about 10 square metres each, and authorities said that there are measures of “environmental mitigation”, to safeguard the local ecosystem, where the Zino’s petrel, a protected seabird, nests.
Cravinho highlighted the importance of the project as a promotion of technological knowledge for the region and an economic booster.
The president of Madeira’s regional government, Miguel Albuquerque, said that the region is always willing to “take its responsibilities” in national defence and cooperation agreements with the European Union and NATO.