Italy and Earth Observation Systems
Although Italy's series of small San Marcosatellites (1964-1988) included some upper atmospheric studies, Earth observation was not a principal objective. In 1987 development began on the German-Italian X-SAR project to produce an X-band synthetic aperture radar for flight on the US Space Shuttle. The first two missions were flown on STS-59 (April, 1994)and STS-68 (September, 1994). X-SAR's 10-mlong, 0.4 m wide antenna operated at a frequency of 9.6 GHz with a resolution as small as 10m. An advanced X-SAR design is currently under investigation (References 558-559, 576-577).
On 31 August 1993, Italy's Temisat microsatellite was launched along with the Russian Meteor 2-21 spacecraft. Although essentially a small data relay satellite, one of Temisat's primary missions is to collect environmental data from as many as 1,000 ground sensors and retransmit the information to central data processing facilities.
Aliena Spazio, the primary Italian firm which supported X-SAR, is now promoting the Constellation for Mediterranean Observation (COSMO) concept of seven small (550 kg) satellites for Earth observation. Four of the spacecraft would be equipped with a synthetic aperture radar, while the other three vehicles would carry optical sensors. As envisioned, COSMO would be sponsored by Italy, Greece, and Spain but would make its products available to the general European community. COSMO follows the earlier Alenia Spazio designer for a heavier, multi-frequency platform (References 578-580).
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