The second satellite of the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG) constellation, built by Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%) and operated in orbit by Telespazio, a joint venture between Leonardo (67%) and Thales (33%), was successfully launched at 00.11 CET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida (USA), on board of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Fifteen minutes after the separation from its launcher, the satellite was acquired and controlled by Telespazio‘s Space Centre based in Fucino, Italy. The second-generation COSMO-SkyMed (COSMO-SkyMed – COnstellation of Satellites for the Mediterranean basin Observation) is a constellation financed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) with funds allocated by the Italian Ministry of University and Research alongside the Italian Ministry of Defence. It will guarantee the operational continuity of SAR (Synthetic-Aperture Radar) Earth Observation (EO) services currently provided by the four first-generation COSMO-SkyMed (CSK) satellites launched into orbit between 2007 and 2010 and still operational.
With the positioning on-orbit of the second satellite, which uses the latest technologies and engineering solutions, CSG will progressively replace the first generation system, increasing system performance, and significantly extending the range of applications offered, in view of the final configuration of four satellites. The entire system, including the ground segment, will set the performance standard for all radar observation systems from space, in terms of accuracy, image quality and flexible user services.
Over the years, the data obtained by the COSMO-SkyMed system have provided fundamental information in monitoring the environment and the territory, for safety or for emergency management. As a participating mission in the European Copernicus program, COSMO-SkyMed images are of great importance in the European Commission‘s Emergency Mapping Rapid Mapping service, which makes satellite maps of areas affected by a natural emergency or humanitarian crisis available in a few hours, such as the La Palma volcanic eruption, for which COSMO-SKyMed provided data and maps of lava movements.
This service is involving an international consortium led by e-GEOS (Telespazio 80% / ASI 20%). The work carried out on the island has shown one of the most innovative features of the second generation COSMO-SkyMed satellites, the ability to acquire data with two – in some ways, four – different polarizations, with important benefits in terms of rapid response and efficiency in the use of the satellite resource. In the past the same result was obtained with multiple passes of the satellite.
“The success of this launch represents a key milestone for the entire COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation constellation. In its final configuration of 4 satellites, it will ensure a real leap in terms of technology and performance, consolidating the worldwide leadership of Thales Alenia Space in space Radar Earth Observation infrastructure. Today, the second generation aims to define the performance standard for all radar observation systems from Space,” said Massimo Comparini, Deputy CEO and SEVP Exploration, Observation and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. “COSMO-SkyMed is an industrial success story and demonstrates our ability to deal with dual use programs, meaning collaborating at the same time with different customers like the Italian Space Agency and the Italian Defense Ministry. Keeping the entire constellation COSMO-SkyMed at the forefront of the future, is essential to preserve the primacy of the entire industrial supply chain in a space market in continuous evolution. It will also allow the ensure the continuity of data serving both security and sustainability needs.”
“We are proud as the Leonardo Group and as Telespazio to be among the creators of the development and affirmation of the most advanced satellite radar constellation in the world,” said Luigi Pasquali, Leonardo’s Space Activities Coordinator and CEO of Telespazio. “COSMO-SkyMed, with its highly innovative operating capabilities, has been contributing since 2007 to the continuous monitoring of the Earth’s surface, responding to the needs related to security and management of natural events providing a contribution of primary importance to its users, both civil and defense.”