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Italian Space Agency Invests in In-Orbit Servicing Demonstration Led by Thales Alenia Space 

By Rachel Jewett | May 15, 2023

D-Orbit ION satellite on orbit. Photo: D-Orbit

The Italian Space Agency (ASI) awarded a 235 million euro ($256 million) contract for an in-orbit servicing demonstration mission to a consortium of space companies led by Thales Alenia Space. The demonstration mission in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) is set to be launched by 2026. 

The mission will test technologies for future on-orbit servicing missions — refueling, component repair or replacement, orbital transfer and atmospheric reentry. These operations will be executed with a robotic arm developed by Leonardo in collaboration with SAB Aerospace, the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) and the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT).

The satellite platform will be based on D-Orbit’s ION platform, including the refueling system which transfers fluid from the servicer satellite to the target satellite. D-Orbit is an Italian space logistics company. 

Telespazio, working with Altec, will be in charge of the ground segment design, development and validation. And Avio will provide design and development activities of the orbital support and propulsion module for the orbital stages.

“This mission reflects the skills and experience of established players in complex space projects, coupled with the more agile approach provided by emerging space companies. By working together they will generate synergies that ensure the future viability of the space sector, while also developing all-Italian technologies to support the growth of the country’s space industry,” commented Massimo Claudio Comparini, senior executive vice president for Observation, Exploration, and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space.