Guayaquil, September 8, 2009.- Continuing with the Ecuadorian civilian space program, the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency - EXA announced today that it has completed the Project HERMES, which is an space flight control station, called HERMES-A/MINOTAUR, capable of connecting the users on the internet to orbiting spacecraft in a stable and permanent way. It has now become the first voice/data Internet-to-Orbit gateway anywhere in the world. The station can be used by students and scientists anywhere in the world to access satellites and spacecrafts online using only a computer and an internet connection.

The HERMES-A/MINOTAUR system will allow scientists around the world immediate access to satellite imaging and science data. Applications include climate research, educational student projects, and government access to real time disaster information, prevention and mitigation. It even allows children to talk to astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. The HERMES project transforms a simple desktop or laptop computer located in the home or classroom into a full space-qualified ground station.

The  station will also serve the academic community for those universities and institutions that have launched their own spacecraft. Access will be given to remotely keep track, download data from and even control their satellites when they are not within radio range. EXA has announced that the use of HERMES-A will be free of charge when being used for research and academic purposes.

The first university to start using the HERMES system is the University of Michigan, accordingly to Dr. Andrew Klesh: "Hermes-A has allowed us to explore collaboration and space science with our friends in Ecuador. By providing a remotely accessible, highly reliable ground station, we are now able to train our students in spacecraft and radio operations from the classroom and the laboratory. Ecuador has provided an important service to the small-satellite community that will allow easy access to spacecraft in orbit from the southern hemisphere. I’m glad I’ve been able to test this exciting and fun venture. "

The United Nations, the European Space Agency and the Austrian government have decided that Project HERMES relevance for scientific community is big enough to invite the Space Operations Director of the EXA, astronaut Ronnie Nader, to the National Academy of Sciences of Austria to educate and train other key scientists from many countries and foreign space agencies in the use of HERMES-A/MINOTAUR so its capabilities can be efficiently and effectively used for the benefit of mankind all. Nader has also been invited to give an opening speech at the inaugural press conference for the Small Satellites for Sustainable Development symposium today and tomorrow will explain the project to the scientific community, on September 10, he will be giving a demonstration of the system and train the participants in its use.

HERMES-A/MINOTAUR is based in the coastal city of Guayaquil and has 2 main components: the HERMES-A server matrix, which is the part that does the signal processing and internet gateway functions and the MINOTAUR sensor array, which is the device that receives the signals from the spacecrafts; It is a 12 meters tall very sensitive sensor array with the capability of detecting signals as faint as 0.2 watts at a distance of more than 6000kms, but also has a high discrimination capability; This can be compared to hear a fly in the far corner of a room the size of an stadium full of people talking out loud. The MINOTAUR sensor array has been completely built by the EXA engineering team led by Mr. Héctor Carrión using locally available materials only, while the HERMES-A gateway was built by the team led by astronaut Ronnie Nader, who also conceived and designed the project.

While the investment in materials and components for the whole project was about US$25.000 financed by the EXA and many private donors, the real value of a project of this kind can be put in the order of millions of dollars, starting with the fact that a similar installation is not available anywhere in the world.

The existence of HERMES-A/MINOTAUR in Ecuador turns the country in a very interesting and unique geographical point in the world for many other space programs and for the scientific community, due its range of 6000kms and its capability for tracking and connecting to spacecrafts within that range, turning the station in the only installation in Latin America with such ample detection range.

The HERMES Project patch

The program for the symposium HERE
Press contact: Mr. Ruben Morales - +593-82-753728 , +593-42-283285
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EXA/09 - BP-25 / BP-E-009-080909