D-Orbit's ION Satellite Carrier will serve as a miniature laboratory, testbed for optical intersatellite links and satellite servicing target under contracts awarded as part of Italy's National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Credit: D-Orbit

SAN FRANCISCO – D-Orbit will supply a small orbiting laboratory and test optical intersatellite links under the latest contracts awarded through Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Under a 6 million euro ($6.54 million) contract announced June 22, D-Orbit will verify the performance of optical intersatellite links for an Earth observation constellation called IRIDE, or International Report for Innovative Defense of Earth.

The low Earth orbit network includes imaging payloads to monitor Italy’s critical infrastructure, air quality and meteorological conditions. Italian startup Stellar Project is supplying laser communications technology to be tested onboard D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier.

Orbiting Lab

D-Orbit also won a contract with a value of approximately 4.8 million euros to work with the Italian Space Agency to establish the In-Orbit Space Lab. The space segment of the laboratory will be housed in an ION Satellite Carrier.

Geospatial data company Planetek Italia, the prime contractor for the In-Orbit Space Lab, will integrate the ground and space segments, and supply software. Aiko, an Italian firm focused on spacecraft artificial intelligence, will handle automation and data processing.

The In-Orbit Space Lab will have extensive on-orbit computing capability, Stefano Antonetti, D-Orbit vice president of business development and institutional sales, said in a statement. “Our ION Satellite Carrier has been designed to be a key element of such an infrastructure,” he added.

National Recovery Plan

Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, a billion-euro initiative to bolster the nation’s post-pandemic economy, has been a boon for space companies.

D-Orbit alone has claimed four multimillion contracts through the initiative.

“These contracts represent a great opportunity to take part in national projects that will mark historic milestones the space sector and cooperate with some of the most renown and innovative Italian companies in the industry,” D-Orbit said in a news release.

In addition to the contracts announced June 22, D-Orbit won a 26 million euro contract to provide a synthetic aperture radar satellite and manage flight operations. The contract includes a 24 million euro option for a second SAR satellite. Italian radar technology company MetaSensing will manufacture the SAR sensor.

In-Orbit Servicing

D-Orbit is part of a consortium led by Thales Alenia Space that won a 235 million euro Italian Space Agency contract to conduct Italy’s first in-orbit servicing demonstration. Avio, Leonardo and Telespazio are members of the consortium.

“We are very proud to work alongside companies of this caliber,” Renato Panesi, D-Orbit co-founder and chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “And we are truly looking forward to contributing to this historical milestone for the national space industry.”

The in-orbit servicing mission includes two satellites and related ground infrastructure. The consortium plans to demonstrate satellite services ranging from inspection and repositioning to refueling and on-orbit assembly.

D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier will be the target satellite for the demonstration mission. In addition to managing activities related to the target satellite, D-Orbit is in charge of the refueling system.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...