Italy rejoins the space race thanks to satellite launcher

satellite launcher

Italy is once again at the top of the space race, thanks to Vega VV16, which was launched on its 16th mission on September 3rd. The launch was postponed several times, first because of the pandemic and then because of critical weather conditions affecting the launch control antenna. Vega VV16 is a satellite launcher designed by Italian company Avio, and its mission consisted of sending 53 satellites into orbit. The satellites itself represent a whole new range of space technology, varying in size and function (from earth observation to telecommunications, from science to education) and collectively set to be a game-changer and to challenge Elon Musk’s SpaceX’ position at the top of the space industry. The satellites will follow different orbits and serve different customers in 13 Countries.

An international project with an Italian heart

Avio is the firm from Colleferro that built and launched Vega VV16, in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency and the Israeli Space Agency, as well as DIDO3, a microgravity laboratory for biological and pharmacological research. The rocket was launched from the European base of Kourou in French Guiana and it used an innovative platform to release the satellites individually, in a precise order, and specific positions. The Small Spacecraft Mission Service platform was used on this mission for the first time and it made a significant difference in Vega VV16’s ability to carry out its appointed task efficiently while reducing costs. The platform itself was the result of a collaboration between Italian and Czech researchers.

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Is a satellite launcher a commercial service?

The idea that a satellite launcher might serve “customers” is still relatively new to the general public. And yet there is a thriving market for the kind of services a project like Vega VV16 can provide. This specific rocket offers highly competitive services within the nano- and micro-satellite market segment, addressing both institutional research needs and strictly commercial ones.

Italy leads the space race

This mission, along with the recent launch of the Italian made ION CubeSat Carrier developed by D-Orbit, puts Italy back in a leading position in space exploration. Unlike many of other members of the European Union, Italy can count on several outstanding companies, operating at all levels of the space industry, from research in space science, innovation, and technology, to the construction of satellites and launchers, to companies and facilities that are starting to receive and process data from space.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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