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Thales to Build 6 Satellites for Italy’s IRIDE Constellation 

By Rachel Jewett | March 28, 2023

Rendering of Italy’s IRIDE constellation. Photo: Thales Alenia Space

Thales Alenia Space has won a contract to build six satellites for the Italian Earth observation (EO) constellation IRIDE. The contract, awarded by the European Space Agency (ESA), is for a batch of six small satellites with synthetic aperture radars (SAR) and one satellite based on optical technology. Thales announced the deal on Monday. 

The contract for the six SAR satellites is worth 112 million euros and includes an option on a second group of four satellites, worth 75 million euros. The optical satellite contract is worth 30 million euros, and includes an option on an additional satellite for 19 million euros. Both the radar and optical satellites are built on Thales’s Nimbus, or New Italian Micro Bus platform, weighing about 170 kilograms. Italian companies Media Lario and TDS are developing the optical payload. 

IRIDE is a government project funded by Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan managed by ESA in conjunction with the Italian space agency ASI. The project features a hybrid constellation of different satellites with dedicated Earth observation sensors and is scheduled to be completed by 2026. 

It will provide environmental data on Italy and monitor fires, coasts, weather conditions and critical infrastructures for Italian civil agencies. 

“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,” commented Massimo Comparini, senior executive vice president of Observation, Exploration, and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space.