Radio astronomy and Space science in Azores: Enhancing the Atlantic VLBI infrastructure cluster


Radio astronomy and Space Infrastructures in the Azores have a great scientific and industrial interest because they benefit from a unique geographical location in the middle of the North Atlantic allowing a vast improvement in the sky coverage. This fact obviously has a very high added value for: i) the establishment of space tracking and communications networks for the emergent global small satellite fleets ii) it is invaluable to connect the radio astronomy infrastructure networks in Africa, Europe and America continents using Very Large Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) techniques, iii) it allows excellent potential for monitoring space debris and Near Earth Objects (NEOs). There is in S. Miguel island a 32-metre SATCOM antenna that could be integrated in advanced VLBI networks and be capable of additional Deep Space Network ground support. This paper explores the space science opportunities offered by the upgrade of the S. Miguel 32-metre SATCOM antenna into a world-class infrastructure for radio astronomy and space exploration: it would enable a Deep Space Network mode and would constitute a key space facility for data production, promoting local digital infrastructure investments and the testing of cutting-edge information technologies. Its Atlantic location also enables improvements in angular resolution, provides many baselines in East–West and North–South directions connecting the emergent VLBI stations in America to Europe and Africa VLBI arrays therefore contributing for greater array imaging capabilities especially for sources or well studied fields close to or below the celestial equator, where ESO facilities, ALMA, SKA and its precursors do or will operate and observe in the coming decades.

Advances in Space Research