Prince Albert of Monaco visited the Orbital Solutions Monaco facility where he saw OSM-1 CICERO, the GeoOptics nanosatellite scheduled for launch in June 2020 on an Arianespace Vega rocket. Credit: Orbital Solutions Monaco

SAN FRANCISCO – The Arianespace Vega rocket flight, scheduled for June 19, is packed with 53 satellites including a GeoOptics CICERO radio occultation cubesat built in Monaco.

Orbital Solutions Monaco (OSM) paid for the six-unit cubesat and manufactured it based on the Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems design. In return, OSM will share in revenues generated by GeoOptics’ weather satellite fleet.

OSM is eager to make similar arrangements through its Fleet Participation Program with other companies when they are beginning to sell Earth observation data.

At that inflection point, “we tell companies we will build satellites to contribute to their fleet against a participation in revenues,” said Francesco Bongiovanni, Orbital Solutions Monaco founder and CEO. “For them, it means they can expand their fleet faster at no cost to them. For us, it means we can latch onto a project that is basically proven or starting to be proven.”

Specifically, OSM plans to build nanosatellites to gather environment and climate data.

“I believe nanosatellites are ideal vectors for these sorts of applications,” Bongiovanni told SpaceNews.

GeoOptics, based in Pasadena, California, delivers radio occultation data to government and commercial customers from sensors the firm developed with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Tyvak. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buys radio occultation data from GeoOptics, PlanetIQ and Spire Global as part of its Commercial Weather Data Pilot.

OSM built the CICERO satellite, OSM-1 CICERO, in its 300 square meter laboratory, which includes a clean room.

“When people think of Monaco, they think of casinos and yachts,” Bongiovanni said. “A little over a year ago, we helped the Principality of Monaco take its first step in new space. [OSM-1 CICERO] is the first satellite built in Monaco.”

Through the Fleet Participation Program, OSM intends to help diversify Monaco’s economy, while making it easier for startups to expand constellations.

“Very often it’s one thing for startups to build and launch one or two demonstration satellites and a completely different thing to deploy a fleet of 20 or 30 satellites because it requires substantial capital investment up front,” Bongiovanni said.

OSM-1 CICERO is one of 53 small satellites scheduled to launch June 19 on the Vega Small Spacecraft Mission Service proof of concept flight.

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...