Italy's government ordered two more second-generatuib Como-SkyMed radar imaging satellites Dec. 15 to complete a four-satellite constellation that began launching in December 2019. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

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. 

Brian Berger is editor in chief of and the SpaceNews magazine. He joined in 1998, spending his first decade with the publication covering NASA. His reporting on the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident was...