COSMO-SkyMed is one of the most innovative Earth observation programmes and is funded by ASI, the Italian Ministry of Defence and the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Scientific Research. The COSMO-SkyMed system involves a constellation of four satellites equipped with radar sensors that can operate under any weather or visibility conditions and with a very high revisit frequency.
The COSMO-SkyMed constellation comprises four identical satellites that “watch” the Earth day and night, under any atmospheric conditions, thanks to high-resolution X-band radar. The system was implemented in stages: the first satellite was launched in June 2007, the second in December 2007, the third in October 2008 and the fourth in November 2010.
The Second Generation COSMO-SkyMed programme (CSG) provides for the launch of two other satellites (the first one was launched in December 2019), and will ensure further improved performance in terms of technology, services and operational life of the system. The new satellites of the constellation represent the top tier in radar observation from space, in terms of precision, features and image quality.
The Second Generation of COSMO system (CSG) will grant a continuity of service provided by the satellite and ground segment of the First Generation today and will provide new application possibilities, with particular reference to risk management and damage assessment and to the evaluation of damages within the context of natural or man-made disasters.
COSMO-SkyMed was conceived as a programme capable of meeting civil needs (environmental monitoring, civil protection, Oil & Gas) as well as military ones. The general features enable interoperability with other systems and the use in the context of international agreements. In particular, COSMO-SkyMed is able to meet the stringent operating requirements of Copernicus, the European programme for Earth observation.
With this constellation information can be acquired over the whole surface of the globe. In average it takes images of the same area every 12 hours and each satellite is capable of generating 450 pictures every day.
Thales Alenia Space
COSMO-SkyMed was developed by Thales Alenia Space in Italy as program prime contractor. The company is responsible for the development and construction of the entire COSMO-SkyMed system, including the ground and space segment.
As a leading role Thales Alenia Space developed the high resolution X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technological heart of the COSMO-SkyMed system, the result of the long experience gained by Thales Alenia Space through its taking part to the most Earth Observation and Solar System exploration missions .
Moreover, each COSMO-SkyMed satellite is based on the Thales Alenia pace PRIMA platform which provides all services (power, propulsion, thermal control, telemetry and remote controls, attitude control) for orbital life and payload operations.
Telespazio built the entire ground segment of the COSMO-SkyMed system. The Fucino Space Centre houses the control centre for the constellation, and managed the phases of acquisition of satellites after launch and the subsequent putting into orbit. As regards the second generation satellites put into orbit and testing activities, these are also managed by the main control centre enhanced with new technologies and capabilities. Telespazio is the only private operator in Europe able to manage the LEOP phase of a satellite mission. Today the Centre carries out command and control activities and the scheduling of requests for the acquisition of images.
The Matera Space Centre, managed by e-GEOS, is responsible for the acquisition, processing and distribution of satellite data for civil applications. Through e-GEOS, Telespazio is active in all areas relating to the Earth observation market: from acquiring and processing satellite data to developing and selling software and products. Specifically, e-GEOS is a leading international operator with an integrated range of application solutions and value-added services, based on radar and very high-resolution optical data. e-GEOS markets COSMO-SkyMed data worldwide.
Leonardo’s Electronics Division participates in the Second Generation COSMO-SkyMed (CSG) programme, producing state-of-the-art equipment that regulates and distributes the satellite’s electrical power. The Power Control & Distribution Unit (PCDU) is, in fact, the primary unit that powers all the onboard subsystems. It also produces the power supply units for the Synthetic Aperture Radar's antenna, i.e. the SPDUs (SAR Power Distribution Unit), and for the radar's individual active elements, i.e. the TPSU (Tile Power Supply Unit).
Furthermore, it supplies the ‘Control Momentum Gyro – CMG’ board that drives its gyroscopes so that the satellite can be maneuvered quickly and easily. The Second Generation COSMO-SkyMed is powered by Leonardo's solar panels (Photo Voltaic Assembly - PVA) in carbon fibre (8 per satellite with about 5,000 solar cells) and its orientation in Space is determined by the A-STR attitude sensors.