COSMO-SkyMed (COnstellation of small Satellites for the Mediterranean basin Observation) is an Earth-observation satellite space-based radar system funded by the Italian Ministry of Research and Ministry of Defence and conducted by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), intended for both military and civilian use. The prime contractor for the spacecrafts was Alenia Spazio.
The space segment of the system includes four identical medium-sized (1900 kg) satellites called COSMO-SkyMed (or COSMO) 1, 2, 3, 4, equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors with global coverage of the planet. Observations of an area of interest can be repeated several times a day in all-weather conditions. The imagery will be applied to defense and security assurance in Italy and other countries, seismic hazard analysis, environmental disaster monitoring, and agricultural mapping.
The four satellites are in sun-synchronous polar orbits with a 97.9° inclination at a nominal altitude of 619 km and an orbital period of 97.2 minutes. The local time ascending node at the equator is 06:00. The expected operating life of each satellite is estimated to be 5 years. Each satellite repeats the same ground track every 16 days, and all of the satellites follow the same ground track. They cross the equator at 06:00 and 18:00 local-time each day. The satellites are phased in the same orbital plane, with COSMO-SkyMed's 1, 2 and 4 at 90° to each other and COSMO-SkyMed 3 at 67.5° from COSMO-SkyMed 2. This results in varied intervals between the satellites along the same ground track of between 1 and 15 days. The sun-synchronous orbit is used to keep the solar cells illuminated at all times.
The satellites' main components are:
- Two solar arrays for 3.8 kW at 42 V DC
- Stabilization, navigation and GPS systems
- Synthetic aperture radar working in X band
- 300 Gbit on-board memory and 310 Mbit/s data-link with ground segments
The radar antenna is a phased array that is 1.4 m wide x 5.7 m long. The system is capable of both single- and dual-polarization collection. The center frequency is 9.6 GHz with a maximum radar bandwidth of 400 MHz.
United Launch Alliance provided launch services for the satellites with their Delta II 7420-10C rockets from Vandenberg AFB. Satellite processing for the first two satellites was handled by the Astrotech Space Operations subsidiary of SPACEHAB. The first satellite COSMO-1 (COSPAR 2007-023A) was launched at 02:34 GMT on 8 June 2007. COSMO-2 (COSPAR 2007-059A) was launched at 02:31:42 GMT on 9 December 2007, the launch having been delayed from 6 December due to bad weather, and problems with the rocket's cork insulation. COSMO-3 (COSPAR 2008-054A) launched at 02:28 GMT on 25 October 2008. COSMO-4 (COSPAR 2010-060A) launched on 6 November 2010 02:20 UTC.
The ground segment of the system is composed of:
- Command Center:
- Italian Centro Controllo e Pianificazione Missione del Fucino
- Tracking and data stations:
- User Ground Segments:
The Argentinian and the French governments are involved respectively in the civil and military segments of the system.
The COSMO-SkyMed satellites have three basic types of imaging modes:
- Spotlight, a high-resolution mode collected over a small area by steering the radar beam slightly fore-to-aft during the collection period.
- Stripmap, a medium-resolution mode collected over long, continuous swaths in which the beam is pointed broadside to the satellite track.
- ScanSAR, a low-resolution mode that creates extra-wide swaths by collecting short segments at different ranges and then mosaicking them together.
There are two Spotlight modes:
- SPOTLIGHT1, which is a military-only mode, and
- SPOTLIGHT2, which provides a resolution of 1 m over a 10 km x 10 km area. Spotlight polarization is limited to either HH or VV
There are two Stripmap modes:
- HIMAGE, which provides a resolution of between 3 and 5 m over a swath of 40 km, and
- PINGPONG, which collects dual-polarization data at 15 m resolution over a swath of 30 km. The dual-polarization data can consist of any two polarizations (HH, VV, VH, HV), and it is non-coherent, as it is collected in "pulse groups" that alternate from one polarization to the other.
There are two ScanSAR modes:
- WIDEREGION, which provides 30 m resolution data over a swath of 100 km, and
- HUGEREGION, which provides 100 m resolution data over a swath of 200 km.
The system is sized to collect up to 450 images per satellite per day.
e-GEOS, S.p.A., a joint venture between European spaceflight services company Telespazio and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), has the exclusive worldwide commercial rights to sell COSMO-SkyMed data and products.
The COSMO-SkyMed satellites are lesser-known deliverers of satellite flares, sometimes approaching magnitude −3. Flares come mainly from SAR-panels of the satellites. Although overshadowed by the Iridium satellites, the flares are often long-lasting, with the satellites traversing much of the sky at brighter-than-average magnitudes.
COSMO-SkyMed second generation, CSG
 To replace the first COSMO-SkyMed constellation, the Italian Space Agency is developing the COSMo-SkyMed 2nd generation constellation. The 2nd generation constellation has the same function of radar-based Earth observation with particular focus on the Mediterranean area as the 1st generation. The main difference from 1st generation is that the 2nd generation consists of only 2 satellites, CSG 1 and 2. The satellites are improved versions of the 1st generation satellites. Also the radar payload CSG-SAR (COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation Synthetic Aperture Radar) is an improved version of the 1st generation X-band SAR payload. Furthermore, the 2nd generation satellites will operate in the same orbit (indeed, in the same orbital plane) as the 1st generation satellites. The 2nd generation satellites slightly outweigh the first generation satellites at 2230kg mass.
The contract for building the satellites was signed in September 2015. The satellites are built by Thales Alenia Space (the successor company of Alenia Spazio). They have a planned lifetime of 7 years. As of November 2019, the satellites target launch for 17 December 2019 (CSG 1) and for 2020 (CSG 2).
- "COSMO-SkyMed: Mission definition and main applications and products" (PDF). ESA.
- "COSMO-SkyMed". Telespazio. Archived from the original on 2007-07-08.
- "SPACEHAB Subsidiary Signs New Contracts Totaling $4.7 Million". SPACEHAB.
- "COSMO-SkyMed User Guide" (PDF). ASI.
- "Boeing To Launch Fourth EO Satellite For Italy". SpaceDaily. Dec 23, 2008.
- "Worldwide launch schedule". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11.
- NASA Spaceflight.com – Delta II launches with COSMO-SkyMed-2 Archived December 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- "eGEOS: COSMO-SkyMed Overview". eGEOS.(subscription required)
- "E-GEOS to Create Early Warning System for Caribbean Weather Emergencies". satellitetoday.com. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2019-08-23.
- COSMO-SkyMed Web Site
- COSMO-SkyMed Products
- INNOVA Consorzio per l'Informatica e la Telematica s.r.l. – Italian SME with specific know-how and expertise with COSMO-SkyMed's HDF5 format
- Remote Monitoring of Migrants Vessels in the Mediterranean Sea (CeMiSS)[permanent dead link] File pdf