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The history of the Institute of Aeronautics and Space has its origins in the 50s, with the creation, on the 1st of January of 1954, of the Institute of Research and Development (IPD) on the campus of the former Aeronautics Technical Center (CTA).

The CTA was born from a visionary idea of Santos Dumont, more than half a century ago. This idea was transformed into a simple, logical and long-term plan conducted with tenacity under the leadership of then Lt. Col. Casimiro Montenegro Filho.

When writing his book "What I saw. What we will see", in 1918, Santos Dumont foresaw that instead of sending young people overseas to study aeronautical sciences, Brazil should create its own school by contracting the necessary experts from abroad. Also according to the writings of the Patron of Brazilian Aviation, the students should be accommodated nearby the school.

Montenegro led a group of idealists who believed it was possible provide Brazil with an effective aeronautical skill. At that time, it was a huge challenge because Brazil was an agricultural country, with no industrial tradition, when even bicycles sold here were imported.

The end of the Second World War, with the consequent process of rebuilding a new political and economical order, linked to the idealism of Montenegro and of the Aviation Authorities, under the command of Air Minister Salgado Filho, it was created an opportunity to attract top researchers from the international scenario to Brazil.

Then, in November 1945, after that Montenegro visited some American Air Bases and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it was idealized the "Plan Smith", so called that way because it was conceived by Prof. Richard H. Smith from the Department of Aeronautical Engineering of MIT.

The "Smith Plan" established the creation of a Technical Center that would consist of two technically autonomous Institutes working under the same coordination: the first for higher technical education and the second for research and cooperation with an aircraft industry that would have both military and commercial aviation branches. According to the original plan, when the Institutes laboratories could deliver a potential product then a plant would be established.

In 1950, after the establishment of the School of Aeronautical Engineering (Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica - ITA), it didn’t take a long time for theoretical knowledge transform itself into practical results. As a consequence of such results, in 1954, it was founded the Institute of Research and Development (IPD) that employed the engineers graduated from ITA.

The goal of IPD was conducting research and development in the fields of aeronautics, electronics, materials, aircraft systems and special tools for aviation. IPD was responsible for the project designing and for building the “Bandeirante” aircraft that, in 1969, led to the creation of EMBRAER which, in a brief period of time, delivered more two new products: the “Urupema” glider and the “Ipanema” agricultural aircraft.

For the first time in history, the domestic industry took advantage of technology transfer from IPD to EMBRAER for aircraft development, as well as the transference of IPD entire team of technicians, administration staff and almost the complete tooling of its Aircraft Division and some tooling from other Divisions of the Institute, providing the new company the immediate technical and organizational support that allowed it to take over, readily, its position as a productive organization and that would quickly become the consolidation center for development of the national aeronautical industry.

Paris, 1906: People watch in admiration the first flight of 14 Bis, the heavier than air. São José dos Campos, 1968: another land, another time, another eyes watch in admiration the first flight of the Bandeirante aircraft.


Another magnificent achievement of IPD was the development of an automotive engine fueled by ethanol; the Brazilian solution was given to the oil crisis that was established in the Country during the 70s.

Alongside the advances in aeronautics, the advent of the space race, fought between the superpowers of the post-war, made the Brazilian Interplanetary Society (SIB) ask the Brazilian President, in 1961, the creation of a National Council for Space Research and Development and thus, on the 3rd of August of that same year, it was created a working group for the organization of the National Commission on Space Activities (GOCNAE), subordinated to the National Research Council (CNPq), which defined the city of São José dos Campos as the natural choice for its headquarters.

At that same year (1961), the Air Ministry formalized its interest in the space field, aiming at the development of small meteorological sounding rockets for the Air Force. Then, IPD was assigned, through its Division of Space Activities (PAE), the conduction of research and development in this area.

In 1963, aiming the intention of the Air Force to accomplish its space research, a working group was created, subordinated to the General Staff of the Air Force (EMAER), that later on, in 1966, would lead to the creation of GETEPE (Executive Working Group for Space Research and Activities). The initial task of that Working Group was devoted to planning the deployment of the Barreira do Inferno Rocket Launch Center - CLFBI (currently CLBI), located nearby the city of Natal, at the State of Rio Grande do Norte.

Since then, military and civilian technicians from the Air Force were trained in the U.S.A., which enabled them to launch American and Canadian rockets from the newly created Launch Center. The inauguration of CLBI occurred in October 1965, and the first rocket launch occurred in December of the same year, it was the launch of the American Rocket Nike Apache. It was also during GETEPE administration that, along with Avibras Company, it was developed the first national sounding rocket called SONDA I, which had its first launch in 1967. At that time, GETEPE administration also gave birth to the SONDA II sounding rocket project.

Launch of SONDA I, in 1967.

After achieving, in the short-term, a substantial and advanced step in the field of space; it was considered opportune and convenient carrying out the dismemberment of IPD structure. Thus, on October 17, 1969, actions were taken to lead to what would be the Institute for Space Activities (IAE), but its intended duties were only undertaken on August 20, 1971, by using the staff and the facilities that belonged to GETEPE and to IPD Division of Space Activities. The Ministerial Act that created IAE would extinguish GETEPE and would put CLBI under the subordination of the Institute for Space Activities.

A great achievement of the Institute of Space Activities was the development of a family of sounding rockets that led the Country to become capacitated on the necessary technologies for the design of a satellite launch vehicle.

In 1970, occurred the first successful launch of the sounding rocket called SONDA II. In 1976, it was launched the first rocket called SONDA III and, in 1984, the first rocket called SONDA IV, all these rockets developed in IAE and launched from Barreira do Inferno.

In 1979, it was idealized the Brazilian Complete Space Mission (MECB) which aimed the construction of national satellites for data collection and for remote sensing, all of them launched by national vehicles from Brazil. The estimated cost for the complete Mission at that time was 900 million dollars, with its achievement scheduled to 1989. The National Institute for Space Activities (INPE) was responsible for satellites construction, while the Air Force was responsible for construction of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (VLS) via IAE, as well as the construction of Alcântara Launch Center (CLA), since CLBI would be inappropriate for launching rockets like the size of VLS.

The 30 years between the launch of SONDA I (1967) and the first prototype of VLS-1 (1997) revealed the extraordinary effort led by IAE in the space field. While the SONDA I had 3.90 meters high, the VLS-1 had 20 meters. The mass of SONDA I had 54 kg allowing it to reach an altitude of 70 km. The VLS -1 had a mass of 50,000 kg, reached an altitude of 750 km and a speed of 27,000 km/h.

Launch of the second prototype of VLS-1, 
in 1999.

Along with the space activities development, it was also assigned to the Institute of Space Activities designing weapons systems for the development of national weaponry to fulfill the needs of the Brazilian Air Force. Thus, in 1976, it was created inside IAE, the Division of Weapon Systems (ESB), nowadays called Defense Systems Division (ASD).

Aiming the reduction of the Country dependence on imported aerial armament, two projects were started: the nationalization of general purpose bombs as well as the development of a missile similar to AIM9-B, still in use up to now.

The pioneering times were arduous because the nationalization processes could not be treated as simple copies: the manufacturing processes used abroad were not suitable for a small-scale production in Brazil. New technologies had to be developed and the need for human resources training became patent. Then, in 1977, it was created the Aeronautics Technological Institute (ITA) and the Engineering Extension Course on Aerial Armament (CEEAA), taught, since then, in partnership with IAE. The competence of ASD was consolidated along time and new weapon systems have been specified and developed successfully since then.

In 1991, a new proposal for structural reorganization of CTA would merge the Institute of Research and Development (IPD) and the Institute of Space Activities (IAE), creating the current Institute of Aeronautics and Space (IAE), which has the mission to "perform research and development on aerospace field".


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