All about the Mexican Space Agency

The direct antecedent of the Agencia Espacial Mexicana or Mexican Space Agency is the Comisión Nacional del Espacio Exterior (CONEE) (or National Space Commission), an office created by presidential decree on August 31, 1962 and attached to the Secretariat of Communications and Transport, which carried out experiments in rocket, telecommunications and atmospheric studies from 1962 to 1976.

After its dissolution by presidential decree, on November 3, 1977, certain activities were financed by the Instituto Mexicano de Comunicaciones (Mexican Institute of Communications) (transformed into the actual Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones), by Satmex then a public company and certain higher education establishments, such as the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica, and the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada.

In 1962, Mexico set up a committee devoted to space affairs (Comisión Nacional del Espacio Exterior), but it ceased all activity in 1977. In 2005, engineers Fernando de la Peña Llaca and José Luis García prepared a first initiative for the creation of a Mexican Space Agency, which was presented to the Chamber of Deputies. This work resulted in a document whose main objective was “to open subcontracting companies” capable of selling their services in other countries. Following a political will initiated in 2006, this country of more than one hundred million inhabitants has decided to create its space agency, the AEM, Agencia Espacial Mexicana. This project created the Mexican Space Agency as a self-funded entity.

The Mexican Space Agency (AEM) is a decentralised public body of the Mexican government, responsible for coordinating Mexico’s space policy in order to develop the specialists, technology and infrastructure necessary for the consolidation of the space sector in the country. This agency was created and approved by the Congress of the Union on April 20, 2010, promulgated by the then President of the Republic, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, on July 13, 2010 and published in the Official Journal of the Federation on July 30. It entered into force on July 31, 2010.

The Mexican Space Agency has a Governmental Board of Directors composed of fifteen members who meet at least four times per year; a Director General appointed for a period of four by the President of the Republic; a Supervisory Body and an Organizational and Administrative Structure defined by the Management Committee.

By law, it has been established that the Mexican Space Agency has its legal headquarters in Mexico City, without this limiting the possibility of having offices on the national territory since the President of the Council of Government is both the Secretary of Communications and Transport, the seat of this secretariat is at the same time that of the Mexican Space Agency (AEM).

Mexico’s space policy is one of the policies independent of the economic situation of the Mexican state. Its objective is to bring scientific, technological and industrial development in aerospace to niche opportunities that allow the country to be competitive in the sector on an international scale and to generate more and better jobs. This policy also aims to open new spaces for the development of national entrepreneurs.

The Mexican Space Agency has defined general guidelines that are implemented through the National Program of Space Activities. Of these guidelines, it must assume the presbytery of the State in space matters, through the formulation and execution of space policy and the National Program of Space Activities of Mexico, aimed at preserving national sovereignty and the interests of the countries in the exploration and exploitation of space.

The Agency has also implemented an environmental sustainability policy to promote the development of space science and technology in coordination with the government departments responsible for this issue and achieve the rational use of natural resources and ensure long-term sustainability.

Recently, the Mexican Space Agency (AEM) organised the workshop on the premises of the Institute of Social Development (INDESOL), in order to assess and measure the satellite needs of the country, in areas such as the management of environmental resources and the safety of disaster victims.

According to the Director General of the AEM, Javier Mendieta Jiménez, Mexico is a Latin American leader for its MexSat satellite system, placed in what is known as “the geostationary orbit” about thirty-six thousand kilometers from the Earth , which provides excellent services to the country. And at the same time, “that the people must now start to rely on the services of what are called low-orbit satellites, another type of small complementary satellites that are placed about two hundred to four hundred kilometers from sea level, towards an average of one percent of the distance at which telecommunications satellites are placed, and which provide other invaluable services to the public”, Javier Mendieta Jiménez said in a statement. He pointed out that they are smaller, cheaper and, more importantly, that they can start to grow with Mexican talent, as already done in the AzTechSAT-1 pilot project.

Article 3 of the law establishing the Mexican Space Agency defines the legal instruments which includes the selection of technological alternatives, the use of information and technologies generated in space and related fields, negotiations, agreements and treaties international organizations in the fields linked to space activities as well as the recognition of the importance for the economy, education, culture and social life of the development, appropriation and use of scientific knowledge and technological developments associated with space research among others.

In 2018, Mexican President Enrique Peña Neto decided to make it a year in which the country’s position in science would be improved. Science had experienced a seven percent increase compared to the budget according to Annex 12 which corresponds to Science, Technology and Innovation. The Mexican Congress approved the 2018 federal budget.

On April 16, 2018, Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the National Center for Space Studies (CNES), participated in the meeting of the Franco-Mexican Strategic Council (CSFM), a tool for reflection and work in the service of Franco-Mexican relations, whose mission is to develop proposals and projects aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation. At the end of their work, the members of the CSFM, around fifty French and Mexican personalities, were received by the President of the Republic before a concluding meeting, chaired by Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Since the framework agreement signed in 2014, CNES’s cooperation with the Mexican Space Agency (AEM) has increased, particularly on issues related to the fight against climate change. In particular, it enabled the meeting of heads of space agencies from around the world in Mexico City in September 2015 and the adoption of the Mexico City Declaration, which proved to be fundamental for taking into account the role of satellites during the preparation for COP21.

During his speech, Jean-Yves Le Gall returned to the fight against climate change. As part of the “One Planet Summit” organised by the President of the Republic in December 2017, a large number of space agencies, including the AEM, adopted the Paris Declaration laying the foundations for the Space Climate Observatory (SCO) proposed by CNES. The year 2018 was devoted to defining the possible contributions of SCO partners. In addition, on the sidelines of the “One Planet Summit”, the French and Mexican Foreign Ministers signed a declaration of intent on the Franco-Mexican Initiative for Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change in the Caribbean, to which the SCO is sure to contribute.

The President of CNES also recalled how numerous the subjects of cooperation between CNES and AEM are, in the fields of ocean observation, management of forest resources, water quality management and treatment.

This article was written by Ange-Marie DIOKH (Paris-Saclay).