Thales Alenia Space wins new satellite contracts
Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, has won contracts from the European Space Agency (ESA) to supply a first batch of six small satellites with synthetic aperture radars (SAR) and one satellite based on optical technology for the Italian Earth observation constellation, IRIDE.
The contract for the six SAR satellites is worth EUR 112 million and includes an option on a second group of four satellites, worth EUR 75 million. The optical satellite contract is worth EUR 30 million, and includes an option on an additional satellite for EUR 19 million.
IRIDE is a government project funded by Italy's National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), managed by ESA in conjunction with the Italian space agency ASI. Scheduled for completion by 2026, IRIDE features a hybrid constellation of different satellites with dedicated Earth observation sensors.
This new constellation, based on a number of different sensing instruments and technologies, will range from microwave radar imaging to optical sensors at various spatial resolutions and in different frequency ranges.
The satellites will be built in Italy under the responsibility of Thales Alenia Space. It will provide valuable data not only to researchers studying the evolution of the environmental conditions of Italy but also to the Civil Protection and other Public administrations to counter hydrogeological instability and fires, protect coasts, monitor critical infrastructures, air quality and weather conditions. Finally, IRIDE will provide analytical data for the development of commercial applications by start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises and industries in the geospatial sector.
Both the radar and optical satellites are built on the modular NIMBUS (New Italian Micro Bus) platform, weighing about 170 kilograms. Built by Thales Alenia Space, the high-performance NIMBUS can be produced rapidly and is designed for high-revisit and high-capacity constellations. The optical payload is being developed by the Italian companies Media Lario and TSD-space, specialized in the creation of instruments and electronics for space.
"Building on our contributions to major Earth observation programs, we are now a key player in this ambitious new project, which entails the creation of a unique, innovative and entirely Italian constellation. We are delighted to be tackling a new challenge that paves the way for the development of new capabilities, especially the design and production of small and medium-sized satellites, which are key to the ‘New Space’ economy,” says Massimo Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President, Observation, Exploration, and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space in a press release.