Italian space company D-Orbit has signed a €26 million contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the IRIDE space-based observation programme initiated by the Italian government. Under the deal, D-Orbit will provide one synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite and manage its flight operations segment for the end user. The contract also includes an option for an additional SAR satellite worth €24 million. MetaSensing, an Italian firm specialising in advanced radar technologies, will provide the SAR sensor.
The IRIDE programme will be managed by the ESA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The programme would include a satellite constellation, ground operational infrastructure, and downstream services for the Italian governmental administration. The satellite constellation will use multiple detection techniques and technologies, including microwave and optical imaging at different frequencies. It would provide data for commercial startups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and industrial applications. The programme will launch between 2025 and 2026 and will support the Italian Civil Protection Department and other organisations in monitoring critical infrastructure, air quality, and meteorological conditions.
Stefano Antonetti, Vice President of D-Orbit, stated that the contract fits perfectly into their satellite as a service line of business and that their partnerships with organisations like the ESA and the ASI have helped pave the way for the company’s growth. Adriano Meta, CEO and founder of MetaSensing called the IRIDE project an essential step for the StarSAR-X, their high-performance X-band radar system.
The Italian government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), a measure taken in response to the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, has allocated about €2 billion to the national space economy as part of its Digitalisation Mission. The IRIDE project leverages national competencies and responsibilities with the support of the ESA and ASI under the PNRR framework.