"Satellites could, in the future, supply the Earth with energy"

The aeronautical engineer Pedro Duque (Madrid, 1963) has been president of Hispasat since December last year.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 March 2024 Friday 16:15
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"Satellites could, in the future, supply the Earth with energy"

The aeronautical engineer Pedro Duque (Madrid, 1963) has been president of Hispasat since December last year. He was previously an astronaut and then Minister of Science and Innovation between June 2018 and January 2023. He came to a company that is currently the fourth European satellite operator and service provider and the sixth Of the world. A bet by the government of Spain 35 years ago and whose business comes, in three quarters, from Latin America, where they provide connectivity to schools in remote areas, in more than 3,600 places where the mobile can be used thanks to its satellites.

Which Hispasat found itself when it acceded to the presidency and which company would it like to leave the day it leaves?

I found a company with great dynamism and that, faced with the challenge of the emergence of new technologies and new companies with immense investments that intend to enter the market, had taken a series of brave decisions and had made important technology acquisitions with great projection. I hope that very soon we will be one of the main players in the sector, that we will have achieved this new technological capability and that, thanks to the reduction of costs in the launch and manufacture of satellites, we will have launched our own satellite constellations ·beds that provide internet connection.

With Starlink doing the same, isn't there a risk of saturating space? How many satellites are there today?

Operatives, 12,000; half, 5,000-6,000, are from Starlink.

What is it that the satellites will be able to do some time from now that they are not doing right now?

Well, with the reduction of costs, many possibilities open up. Somehow we will have to populate space with enough satellites so that communication is immediate. It may even be that one day all the cell towers will rust. And thanks to satellites, we will be able to go further, to have people living on the Moon. We have the Moonlight project, which consists of providing a communications network around the Moon. In the future, satellites could supply the Earth with energy.

With?

With huge solar panels, kilometers long. Things don't weigh there. The plate will be unrolled and the satellite will send the energy to Earth by means of microwaves. It's a study that was done more than 20 years ago, but it was too expensive to put it into orbit.

Will we have many satellites around the Moon?

Of course. We will put satellites on all sides. Joseria is in favor of not throwing optical fiber with sticks around the Moon, much less making trenches there. There will only be satellites. And that will be in the near future.

What is the Caramuel project?

It is very important. We are at a time when there will soon be quantum computers. We don't know how yet, but supposedly, maybe in ten years, they will be able to break any key. A quantum key cannot be transmitted by optical fiber, because the fiber gradually degrades and is no longer useful after about 100 km. Therefore, they can practically only be transmitted by satellite.

Do you miss being an astronaut?

I really liked it, especially being in space and seeing the Earth from up there is something unforgettable. But the day I accepted the call to be a minister, more or less, it was over.

Is space a frontier that we can already consider conquered?

We still have a lot to discover. It remains to be seen if it is true that you can live permanently on the Moon using its own resources. Once we live on the moon, then get the necessary benefits from it, like, for example, mining, rare earths, isotope 3 of helium, all these things that have always been theorized that maybe they can change the economy of the land Radio telescopes on the other side to study the universe and perhaps more accurately detect the waves coming from the universe and see if there are other intelligent beings.

Do you think it is impossible that we are the only intelligent beings in the entire universe?

We never consider zero in engineering. There is always something. And neither is the infinite and the impossible. So it is possible. As far as we know, there are more planets in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth, so it seems to me that this tends to be a near certainty, and that there is somewhere that is just like the earth.

Now it looks like the next challenge is Mars. Do we really need to go there?

It is an intrinsic urge of humanity to explore, to see what is beyond and what we can take from what is beyond. And if you look at it from a purely political point of view, even from a media point of view, if a world power, a government or a company sees the possibility of taking someone to Mars, they will do it because it will bring them a lot of profit.

What role can Spain play in this new space race that has begun?

A lot of investment has been made in the development of the space industry for 50 years. And a series of technological niches have been developed in which they have become leaders. In almost all European satellites there are parts manufactured in Spain. In the case of Hispasat, we will not stop in order not to be left behind in satellite communications, to ensure the availability of all this technology also for Spaniards.