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Delta-II launch success, Italian space community rejoices

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle.  It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Joe Davila)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle. It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Joe Davila)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday.  The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II carried an Italian payload as over 200 Italian VIP’s at Vandenberg witnessed the launch.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Richard Cassady)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II carried an Italian payload as over 200 Italian VIP’s at Vandenberg witnessed the launch. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Richard Cassady)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite flies from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle. It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force photo/Matthew Plew)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite flies from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle. It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force photo/Matthew Plew)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday.   The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg,  took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle.  It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Steve Butler)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle. It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Steve Butler)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle.  It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Joe Davila)

A Delta II rocket carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. The rocket, first of two COSMO-SkyMed launches scheduled from Vandenberg, took off from Space Launch Complex-2. The Delta II is an expendable launch, medium-lift vehicle. It carries civil and commercial payloads into low-earth, polar, geosynchronous transfer and stationary orbits. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Joe Davila)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- History was made for the Italian space community with Vandenberg's successful launch of a Delta II rocket June 7. The rocket took off at 7:34 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-2 carrying the Thales Alenia-Space COSMO-SkyMed Satellite.

This was the first of a constellation of four Italian satellites--the first of two to be launched from Vandenberg. The constellation will be an end-to-end Earth observation system composed of four medium-sized (1,100-2,200 pound) satellites. It will support ground stations for orbit control systems and data reception and processing.

The system will take imagery of the Earth using an X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument at the request of institutional and commercial users, including members of the defense, civil and scientific communities.

The COSMO-SkyMed program was developed by Thales Alenia Space-Italia for the Italian Space Agency and the Italian Ministry of Defence. While more than 50 Italians have been working on base to prepare the satellite for lift off, another 150 flew in from Italy to observe the event.

"It is very emotional," said a tearful Francesca Sette, Thales Alenia Space-Italia. "We worked very hard for six months on this event; and during the last six months, we began to work 24 hours per day to ensure we completed this project on time."

The group from the Italian launch community used the Pacific Coast Club here to observe the event. An extravagant event, it included everything from 30 plasma screen TVs, to a live broadcast from Rome with a speech by Italian Minister of Defense, Arturo Parisi.

After watching the rocket lifting off the pad during a live broadcast in the PCC, an Italian train of 100 people went hurrying through the door to observe the Delta II rocketing through the sky outside. People were jumping up and down and hugging each other in celebration.

"It was so beautiful," said Mara Midealo, the wife of a Thales Alenia employee. "This was my first launch and it was a great event."

Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, was the spacelift commander for this mission, or final go-for-launch authority.

"This was a testament to the tremendous team effort between the 30th Space Wing and our industry partners," he said. "Teamwork was the backbone to the success of this launch and getting the Italian satellite into orbit." 

To view the launch, click here.