Telespazio and ALTEC Sign Contract with ESA for Ground Segment of Space Rider Mission

Vega payload carriers and Space Rider (Credit: ESA)

ROME, 9 December 2020 (Telespazio PR) — ALTEC and Telespazio today signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to manage the ground segment and operations for the Space Rider mission.

Space Rider is an unmanned space vehicle with a payload capacity of about 600 kg, able to carry out scientific and technological experiments in microgravity conditions, while orbiting at an altitude of about 400 km.

At the end of the mission it will return safely to Earth, thus ensuring full recovery of the load.

The reusable vehicle will be built by an industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space and AVIO, and will consist of two main elements: the AVUM Orbital Module (AOM) and the Re-entry Module (RM). The unit covered by the development contract will be able to carry out at least 5 missions, in addition to its inaugural launch.

The missions, lasting at least 2 months, will be launched from the European Space Port at Kourou, in French Guiana, on board the VEGA‑C carrier, and will conclude with an autonomous landing.

“Telespazio is proud to contribute to the development of a highly innovative European space programme that the Italian Space Agency has been very keen to see come to fruition, and which will be run by the leading companies in the Italy’s aerospace industry. The strategic value of a vehicle like Space Rider is that it gives Europe access to space in low orbit. The signing of this contract, which sees us in partnership with ALTEC, rewards the firm’s consolidated experience in the field of space operations and setting up the Earth Segment of important international missions and programmes”

Luigi Pasquali, Leonardo’s Space Activities Coordinator and Telespazio CEO.

“This contract is the crowning achievement of the efforts that my colleagues and the entire company have made over the years, on various programmes, in various fields and sectors. It fully summarizes what the company is today: a cohesive group of enthusiastic and passionate people whose energy and professionalism have allowed ALTEC to have the international recognition it enjoys today. It is with this same spirit that we are preparing to face this new, exciting adventure together with Telespazio and with the support of the Italian and European Space Agencies, aware of the difficulties but at the same time certain of the success that Space Rider will achieve at an international level”

Vincenzo Giorgio, CEO of ALTEC

Within the Space Rider mission, ALTEC and Telespazio will be responsible for managing the entire ground segment and subsequent mission operations and act as Co-Prime, in an integrated manner.

ALTEC will manage the scientific and technological experiments on board the vehicle during the nominal mission phase, as well as the phase that relates to the vehicle’s non-destructive return into the atmosphere.

Telespazio is responsible for the development, integration and validation of VCC-OC (Vehicle Control Centre – Operations Control) and the development, validation and execution of flight operations, for both the launch and early orbit phase (LEOP) and the “routine” phase. In addition, Telespazio will be responsible for the construction and management of the Ground Stations Network.

All flight operations will be managed from the Fucino Space Centre. From there, Telespazio will control the return phase of the AVUM Orbital Module, while ALTEC will be responsible for the return and landing phases of the Re-entry Module (RM), which it will follow from VCC-LC (Vehicle Control Centre – Landing Control). This is an integral part of the Vehicle Control Centre and is housed in its own Space Centre in Turin.  The same Centre will also host the Payload Ground Control Centre, or PGCC, from which ALTEC will manage experiments during the orbital phase of the mission.

Space Rider represents the evolution of the IXV mission, successfully carried out on 11 February 2015, with a suborbital flight that left from Kourou and ended with the recovery of the spaceplane after ditching in the Pacific Ocean. Within the industrial team for the IXV mission, headed by Thales Alenia Space in Italy, ALTEC was responsible for the ground segment and the mission control centre, hosted at its headquarters in Turin.