LICIACube (bottom right) deployed from NASA's DART spacecraft and observed DART's collision with the asteroid Didymos in September. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

LOS ANGELES – Italian space company Argotec announced plans Oct. 11 to invests $25 million in a manufacturing facility in Maryland that will employ more than 60 people designing, building, testing and operating satellites.

“It’s important to be close to our customers,” David Avino, Argotec CEO and founder, told SpaceNews at the Space Economy Summit here. “At the same time, we want to be a U.S. company.”

David Avino, Argotec CEO and founder

The first product from the new Largo, Maryland, facility will be a software-defined radio. Argotec will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to create a streamlined version of the Universal Space Transponder-Lite radio for high-speed communications services in deep space. Following the prototype phase for the software-defined UST-Lite, Argotec plans to expand production for commercial customers.

Argotec’s new U.S. managing director is Corbett Hoenninger, a former senior vice president of engineering at Sierra Space and a former United Space Alliance flight controller and astronaut trainer.

Lunar image from the ArgoMoon cubesat launched in 2022 on the NASA Space Launch System.

ArgoMoon and LICIACube

In the last couple of years, Argotec gained recognition for two cubesats sent to deep space: ArgoMoon, which launched on the Artemis Exploration Mission 1 in 2022, and LICIACube, which collected imagery of the ejecta plume from NASA’s 2022 Double Asteroid Redirection Test. At the SmallSat Conference in Utah in August, LICIACube won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Small Satellite Mission of the Year award.

ArgoMoon and LICIACube demonstrate the reliability and performance of Argotec satellites, Avino said. Based on that technology, Argotec plans to manufacture communications and Earth-observation satellites for constellations.

In the past, Argotec has worked extensively with the Italian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and NASA. For the future, “we’re targeting also commercial customers,” Avino said.

Image from Argotec’s LICIACube, a satellite funded by the Italian Space Agency, to observe the impact of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission to the asteroid Dimorphos.

UST-Lite, originally developed by JPL, combines a miniature radio with advanced processing to facilitate long-distance data transmission and reception.

In July, Argotec unveiled its new SpacePark, a facility in Turin, Italy, designed to produce one satellite per week.

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...