Italy orders second pair of Cosmo-SkyMed radar satellites

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WASHINGTON —The Italian government has ordered two additional Cosmo-SkyMed radar imaging satellites from Thales Alenia Space and tapped Telespazio to upgrade the constellation’s ground segment under a contract announced Dec. 15.

Thales Alenia Space spokeswoman Sandrine Bielecki said the contract provides nearly €300 million ($365 million) to build two second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed satellites scheduled to launch in early 2024 and early 2025 — likely aboard a Vega C or Soyuz rocket. 

The Italian Defense Ministry and Italian Space Agency (ASI) jointly fund Cosmo-SkyMed, which provides synthetic aperture radar imagery to military and civilian users. Commercial Cosmo-SkyMed imagery products are sold by Telespazio via its e-Geos venture with ASI.

Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio said the just-ordered pair of satellites will complete the second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed constellation and allow Italy to retire its first-generation Cosmo-SkyMed satellites. The first-generation satellites launched between 2007 and 2010 and all four are operating well beyond their intended lifetimes.  

Italy struggled for years to find the money for a second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed constellation, waiting until late 2015 to put one satellite under contract while making a downpayment on a second spacecraft.

Italy launched the first of those initial second-generation satellites in December 2019 from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana aboard a Soyuz rocket booked through Arianespace. The second satellite in that batch is scheduled to launch from the South American spaceport in late 2021 on an Arianespace-operated Vega C.

Thales Alenia Space said the two additional satellites and Telespazio-led ground segment upgrades guarantee Cosmo-SkyMed continuity and promise better image quality and more responsive tasking than the current system.

This story was updated Dec. 16 with more information about the contract.