On June 7, 2007, at 7:35 pm sharp, the first satellite in Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed constellation was successfully launched in California. This marked the first step towards one of the world’s most advanced Earth observation systems, completed in 2010 (4 satellites in total) and reflecting the expertise of the Italian space industry, especially Leonardo and its two joint ventures: Thales Alenia Space (Thales 67%, Leonardo 33%) and Telespazio (Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%).
Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for COSMO-SkyMed, while Telespazio built the ground segment and hosts the command and control center in Fucino.
Funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, COSMO-SkyMed was the first dual-purpose satellite observation system, designed for both civil and military applications. The satellites are fitted with high-resolution X-band radars, meaning that they can observe the Earth in any weather and conditions of visibility. They also feature extremely high re-visitation frequency, for greater monitoring capacity to help protect public safety and manage natural disasters and other emergencies.
Data from the satellite is transmitted to the Matera Space Center, where specialized technicians from e-GEOS, a joint venture between Telespazio and ASI, analyze this information to generate value-added services.
In its first decade of service, COSMO-SkyMed has captured over one million radar scenes worldwide, by monitoring UNESCO World Heritage Sites and generating data that is vital to understanding the phenomena that affect our planet. This information is used for damage assessment following natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides and flooding, the monitoring of critical infrastructures, tracking the movement of glaciers, and monitoring illegal activities such as oil spills and the trafficking of goods or people.
Italian industry is now developing COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG), which will deliver a quantum jump in technology, performance and operational life – and bolster Italy’s global leadership in this sector.
“Today we are proud to celebrate this major milestone for our company, with the tenth anniversary of the COSMO-SkyMed system, the global standard in spaceborne radar technology,” said Donato Amoroso, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Italy. “Following the success of the first-generation and the second-generation now in the pipeline, we are already looking ahead to the development of the third-generation, to make sure that our industry continues to set the pace in Earth observation.”
“For Italy, the tenth anniversary of COSMO-SkyMed is a source of pride as well as an example of fruitful collaboration between institutions and industry,” added Luigi Pasquali, Director of the Leonardo Space Sector and CEO of Telespazio. “This program, created by the Space Alliance between Leonardo and Thales, is recognized worldwide for its unprecedented excellence in space observation. Through the current system and its upcoming generations we will continue to generate the vital information that will help us understand the phenomena that impact our planet and the safety of its people.”