Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), 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. This innovative 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, thus becoming a pioneering space program in Earth Observation.
The contract for the six SAR satellites is worth €112 million and includes an option on a second group of four satellites, worth €75 million. The optical satellite contract is worth €30 million, and includes an option on an additional satellite for €19 million.
The satellites will be built in Italy under the responsibility of Thales Alenia Space and thanks to the contribution of the entire supply chain of SMEs in the space sector. 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 TDS, specialized in the creation of instruments and electronics for space.