Tim Furniss/LONDON

BRAZIL'S ATTEMPTS to develop its own small-satellite launcher have been aided by the black-market purchases of state-of-the-art micro-electronic technology from Russia and other countries, Brazil's aeronautics ministry has admitted.

Development of the Veiculo Lancador de Satelites (VLS), scheduled originally for launch in 1985, has been slowed dramatically by the imposition of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which prevents the export of missile technology by signatory countries, including the USA.

"We were forced to obtain some parts from the international black market, and now we have solved the problem through the purchase of parts and software, rather than a complete unit," Col. Thiago Ribeiro, VLS manager at the aeronautics ministry, told the O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.

"We bought the technology from Russia, France, Italy and Germany. We even bought parts from the USA, despite the embargo," Ribeiro says.

"We can say we have mastered the guidance technology," says Robeiro, adding that the first VLS flight is scheduled for June 1996, from the Alcantara launch base in northeast Brazil.

The VLS is a three-stage solid-propellant rocket, with strap-on boosters, which will be able to place 200kg payloads into low-Earth orbit.

Source: Flight International