The ASI AGILE satellite has re-entered the atmosphere, after being managed in orbit for 17 years by Telespazio

15 February 2024

After 17 years of activity, AGILE (Astrorivelatore Gamma a Immagini LEggero, Light Imager for Gamma-ray Astrophysics), the scientific satellite of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), has re-entered the atmosphere. The “passivation” of the satellite, as required by international standards, was correctly carried out on 18 January by the Telespazio technicians in the Fucino Space Centre.

Telespazio has made a fundamental contribution to the success of the AGILE scientific mission.

The company was responsible for the development of the ground segment and the management and control activities of the mission since the satellite was launched on 23 April 2007 from the Sriharikota base in India - the LEOP, Launch and Early Orbit Phase -, during commissioning and then throughout its operational life.

Specifically, Telespazio created and managed the Satellite Control Centre (SCC), including the Flight Dynamics Centre (FDC) and the Mission Control Centre (MCC), both set up in the “Piero Fanti” Space Centre in Fucino.

In addition, Telespazio dealt both with adapting the ASI Telemetry and Remote Control Station (TT&C), located in Malindi (Kenya), and with the enhancement of the ASINet network, the ASI-owned communication infrastructure that ensures connectivity between the three sites of the Ground Segment (the Fucino Satellite Control Centre, the TT&C Station in Kenya and the SSDC Scientific Data Centre in the ASI headquarters in Rome).

The Agile Satellite Control Centre (SCC) was the heart of the system dedicated to the management of all the functions necessary for satellite monitoring; it received and processed, at each contact, 7838 telemetry parameters and satellite control parameters through a set of 336 different remote controls. Through the SCC, the phases of the mission in both nominal and contingency operational situations were managed for 17 years and through 87200 total orbits around the Earth.

The Telespazio team in Fucino, where the SCC operates, and in Malindi, where on behalf of ASI the company manages the monitoring and operational status of the TT&C Station equipment, cooperated and coordinated closely to ensure all the systems were fully functional in all operating conditions.

Through the Flight Dynamics Centre (FDC), Telespazio supported the operational management of the mission (determination of the orbital position and the satellite attitude dynamics) from the moment the satellite was released from the PSLV launcher. Performance monitoring was carried out, from the calculation of attitude manoeuvres for pointing the satellite towards the predefined directions of the scientific targets, to the management of stellar sensors and estimates of orbital decay until re-entry into the atmosphere.

The Agile Mission Control Centre (MCC) was the interface between the ground segment and the ASI Space Science Data Centre (SSDC), whose purpose was to provide support to the scientific component of this mission, dealing with the collection of requests for scientific observations, planning and executing them and managing the distribution of observation data.

With the AGILE mission, Telespazio carried out the in-orbit control operations of a LEO satellite for the first time, reaching a perigee altitude of less than 300 km. The activities were successfully managed despite the progressive reduction in the duration of contacts.

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