The revised regime, which came into effect on February 3, for access and space activities defines the licensing conditions for launch centers in Portuguese territory, allowing their installation and operation “by private parties”.

Launch centers to be installed are subject to a hearing and the issuance of a binding opinion by the regional governments of Madeira and the Azores.

Once all the required conditions are met, licensing is granted by Anacom – National Communications Authority, which is the space authority in Portugal.

The president of PT Space, Ricardo Conde, pointed out that the revision of the legislation will allow “to create the conditions so that there is a commercial operator with the capacity to compete in the international market from the national territory”.

The Azores archipelago, where the construction of a space base for launching small satellites is planned for the island of Santa Maria, which has experienced several setbacks, has been identified by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of the suitable locations for the landing of the Space Rider, a reusable cargo transport vehicle that allows experiments to be carried out in low Earth orbit for two months, such as testing Earth observation, robotic exploration and telecommunication.

In a statement released on February 5, the Agência Espacial Portuguesa disclosed the ESA should decide between April and June of this year, the landing site for the first Space Rider flights, which is still in the testing and validation phase, emphasising that Santa Maria “continues to be one of the best possibilities, even for the inaugural flight”.

However, the maiden flight of Space Rider, Europe’s first reusable space vehicle, will be launched from the ESA base in Kourou French Guiana.

The launch was scheduled for 2024 but was postponed to the third quarter of 2025, in accordance with the new deadline estimate released by the Agência Espacial Portuguesa.

On board, the inaugural flight will be a scientific experiment led by the Laboratório de Instrumentação e Física Experimental de Partículas (LIP), which will record gamma-ray emissions.