Argentina successfully tested at the beginning of July the Tronador I (Thunderer) rocket, the first step of a project to join the space race having as a target a rocket capable of sending a satellite into orbit.
The next step, Tronador II, will transport a payload of 200 kilos, which is in the framework of international conventions that look into preventing the proliferation of rockets that can transport payloads of 500 kilos over a distance of plus 300 kilometers since they could be used for military purposes. The project, according to Buenos Aires daily La Nación is under civilian control, since allegedly the military preferred to remain aside. The plan recalls the Condor ballistic system which was being developed by the Argentine Armed Forces with the purpose of transporting war heads of 500 kilos at a distance between 800 and 1.000 kilometers. However under strong international pressure Argentina was forced to scrap the project in 1993. Fourteen years after having de-activated the Condon II missile program, Argentina is again experimenting with rockets. According to La Nacion the Tronador was launched early June in Bahía Blanca, 180 kilometers south of Buenos Aires. The rocket is less than four meters tall and was only successful in the second attempt, but apparently delivered sufficient data and experience as to advance into the following stage, Tronador II, fed on liquid fuel and that can transport a payload of 200 kilos, which is below the 500 kilos and 300 kilometers limits. Argentina's Space Activities National Commission is in charge of the project which in the last few months has had significant support from the Kirchner administration. VENG as the new company is known, New Generation Space Vehicle was actually created ion 1998 under President Carlos Menem but had never received the sufficient funding to address its commitments. The Tronador project was born under President Menem but never left the drawing board, said La Nacion. However in 2003 it begun receiving very modest funds and has now earmarked 8 million US dollars for the second stage. The rocket is fueled with a chemical compound made out nitrogen and hydrogen, very common in missiles, space rockets and satellites. The previous Argentine rocket experience the Condor ballistic missile project dates back to the eighties following the Falklands war. Ten years later under intense international pressure the project, which until 1987 "officially" did not exist, was scrapped. Developed nations had agreed on missiles control system to avoid the proliferation of missile technology in the developing countries. Argentina was never able to test the Condor which had a war head capacity of 500 kilos and could travel between 800 and 1000 kilometers. Argentina's neighbors were also concerned with the development of the technology and the leading powers did not approve, at the time, of a potential partner in the project, Egypt. Finally in 1993 United States convinced Menem to end the Condor project and in exchange he negotiated the end to the US arms embargo and strategic links with Washington. Menem went further and put an end to space research under the military and instead created a civil space research agency. The Falda del Carmen operational center in the Cordoba mountains regions was opened to international inspection, later totally dismantled and the rocket/rockets sent to Spain for their destruction.