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On February 8, 2021, the National Congress passed a law that created the Costa Rican Space Agency (ACS) to promote space exploration as a development tool for the country’s industry and economy.
For weeks before its passage, uncertainty surrounded Legislative Decree 9960 to create a Costa Rican Space Agency. It was feared that Congress would veto the measure for budgetary reasons. However, President Carlos Alvarado announced that Costa Rican astronaut, Franklin Chang Diaz, and a work team would advise on adjustments to the law that would enable it to operate within the country’s financial means.
“After concerns were expressed by different sectors of society and the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic about the financing channels of the space agency, the government decided to present a proposal to reform the law to ensure that it has a reasonable cost and that it adapts to the possibilities of deadlines and budgets of the country,” the Presidency said in a press release related to the matter.
“In addition, President Carlos Alvarado announced that he asked Dr. and astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz for his advice so that the objective of the creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency is fulfilled in accordance with the national financial capabilities. This is why a reform of the law that considers this provision will be promoted. In this way, the country will take advantage of its well-educated human capital and will be able to develop its scientific capacities in an avant-garde manner, without jeopardizing state finances,” the Presidency concluded.
The Costa Rican Space Agency received 37 votes in favor and three against in its vote during a second debate in the Legislative Assembly.
The legislative initiative was processed under file 21.330, presented in April 2019 by the Congressional Deputy Aida María Montiel Héctor. Although the measure passed by a definitive margin, it was opposed by independent deputies Jonathan Prendas Rodríguez, Marulin Azofeifa Trejos, Ignacio Alpízar Castro, and Carmen Chan.
The Costa Rican Space Agency will operate under ten strategic principles. They include one that stipulates that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes. The activities of the ACS shall not involve installing any object carrying nuclear weapons or any other type of weapon of mass destruction or military fortifications. The ACS shall be the institution responsible for authorizing and supervising Activities in Outer Space by government agencies or non-governmental entities, in addition to ensuring that such activities are in accordance with the provisions of international law.
The Agency will be a non-state, legally established public entity with and its own assets. The ACS will also have technical, administrative, and management autonomy. It will, however, be subject to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Telecommunications (Micitt) as it is the country’s governing body in the area of science and technology.
Its headquarters will be in the capital city of San José. However, it will not be prohibited from establishing satellite offices or conventional addresses in any other part of the country.
The Costa Rican Space Agency is a multi-function entity
MPs have established a total of 17 functions in the Costa Rican Space Agency. These include:
- Developing research projects, technological innovation, collaboration, and articulation focused on the solution of problems of humanity in terms of generation of space scientific knowledge, space exploration, and management of resources inside and outside the planet Earth within the framework of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, with a peaceful approach and focused on social welfare.
- Defining and promoting programs, projects, and actions to strengthen knowledge and the development of space research, its influence on daily life, and its potential as a source of economic growth.
- Promoting the development of space systems and the means, technology, and infrastructure necessary for the consolidation and self-sufficiency of this sector in Costa Rica.
- Facilitating the incorporation of Costa Rica’s productive sectors into this activity to acquire competitiveness in the markets for space goods and services.
- Promoting and executing scientific and technological studies and research in the field in the priority areas of attention defined by the governing body.
- Certifying and accrediting to the National Registry the data contained in the registration documents of any space object, whether launched or not into outer space, that is promoted and developed by the Costa Rican Space Agency.
- Building and establishing collaborative relationships with international agencies and companies dedicated to the space industry.
- Authorizing and monitoring national activities in outer space, governmental agencies, or national non-governmental entities, creating responsibility for the country following international law.
In addition to a Board of Directors, the Agency will have an Executive Directorate whose head will be appointed and removed by agreement of the Board of Directors for five years and subject to evaluations every two years.
The text of the enabling legislation also provides for creating the Guanacaste Space Center as a unit of the Costa Rican Space Agency, responsible for implementing space research, development, and innovation projects, the promotion of space science, and the management of complimentary services.
The Center shall be composed of the scientists, specialists, and support staff required for its operation and shall be based in the city of Liberia.
Where will the Costa Rican Space Agency (ACS) get its funding?
The ACS will finance its operations with the following resources:
- For five years from the entry into force of the law, the agency will be funded with contributions from the institutions of the Non-Financial Public Sector excluding the Central Government, local governments, the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, public universities, and the National Technical University.
- Its own income resulting from the sale of the Agency’s portfolio of products and services.
- The product of credits, donations, legacies, and other contributions made by natural, legal, public, private, national, or foreign persons, following the laws that regulate the matter, with the board of directors’ prior authorization.
The contribution of non-financial public sector institutions will be mandatory during the period specified above. It must be zero point four percent (0.4%) of the free surplus settled at the end of the previous economic period.
Finally, the text provides that the labor relations of the Costa Rican Space Agency workers and its headquarters or space laboratories shall be governed by the National Labor Code and other related laws.
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