Brazilian president signs deal with SpaceX — as the company struggles to build his broadband network


President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazilian Space Agency President Gisela Malbron de Paula on Thursday celebrated a contract signed between the government and SpaceX to send NASA satellites into orbit to monitor the world’s forests as part of efforts to develop a broadband Internet network for remote parts of the country.

In a joint statement, the two leaders said Brazil’s partnership with SpaceX, which includes four satellites launching in 2025 and 12 in 2030, will help develop the Brazilian fiber optic network, which will be “compatible with scientific or technological data.”

“It is more important now than ever before to prepare ourselves for the digital race that we are embarking on,” Bolsonaro said.

However, there is one hitch: Bolsonaro is personally invested in a satellite company which is currently struggling to service its debts and has not been able to develop a national broadband network in Brazil. That creates confusion and makes the government’s entrepreneurial efforts more difficult to administer.

President Bolsonaro denies any conflict of interest with the contract.

The company’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, has come under fire for carrying on the relationship despite his ties to the U.S. government that he helped lead under former president Barack Obama.

More recently, he took a leave of absence to help establish a high-altitude research satellite operated by Orbital Insight, the firm he led after leaving Google.

When his departure from the Google-owned satellite company was announced, a spokesperson said that “while he hasn’t ruled out serving in government again in the future, he has no aspirations at this time for a government position.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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