Italian Space Agency's PRISMA satellite successfully launched

Kourou   22 March 2019

The Italian Space Agency’s PRISMA satellite was successfully launched at 02:50 (CET) by Arianespace, on board a VEGA carrier that took off from the European space base in Kourou (French Guiana).

About 118 minutes after the launch, at 04.48 (CET), the first signal was acquired from the satellite by the LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit phase) control room at Telespazio’s Fucino Space Centre. From here, the satellite will be put into orbit and tested, and will be fully operational by the middle of June.

PRISMA will complete the current Italian Space Agency offer of Earth Observation space segment, now primarly based on the Synthetic Aperture Radar of COSMO-SkyMed constellation. Thanks to its hyperspectral innovative optical sensor, PRISMA is able to acquire images of Earth surface to see the chemical and physical composition and provide information for several applications.

PRISMA was developed by a Temporary Joint Venture of companies, led by OHB Italia, responsible for the mission and management of the three main segments (ground, flight and launch) and Leonardo, which built the electro-optical hyperspectral instrumentation in addition to on-board equipment such as solar panels and power supply unit.

For the PRISMA programme Telespazio set up the Ground Segment, and manages the LEOP phase, that runs from when the satellite separates from the carrier, until it reaches its final orbit position, as well as in-orbit testing. The Ground Segment includes the mission control centre, which is located at the Fucino Space Centre, and the data acquisition, processing, and distribution centre in Matera.

Thales Alenia Space has implemented the data transmission system on board the satellite.

“PRISMA has brought into orbit the Italian ability ‘to make Space’. It represents the first European hyperspectral mission,” said Professor Piero Benvenuti, Commissioner of Italian Space Agency. “As such, it represents a unique opportunity to develop advanced know-how and test the innovative contribution expected from hyperspectral data in Earth Observation applications. Furthermore, PRISMA plays a strategic role in the future hyperspectral operational mission within Sentinel missions of Copernicus European Program”.

"Leonardo's technology is at the heart of this mission: our hyperspectral camera, the most advanced and most powerful in the world, will equip Italy with the ability to study the Planet like never before” - said Alessandro Profumo, Chief Executive Officer of Leonardo. “Our Fucino Space Centre will follow the LEOP and in-orbit tests to guarantee the scientific community access to valuable data for sustainable development. Leonardo puts forth its best efforts to face this major challenge, with the energy, skills and dedication of women and men strongly committed to technological innovation".

The satellite will be operational for 5 years and will make available to a national and international community of users images of great scientific interest. The data will provide a crucial contribution to the development of research as well as to the testing in many fields of Earth Observation applications: monitoring, the management of agriculture and natural resources, the control of pollution, and the study of climatic and environment changes (support to emergency management).

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