Rid talks about Space according to Leonardo: from the Lunar drill to the atomic clocks

22 November 2022

Pietro Batacchi, RID's editor-in-chief travelling in space with Leonardo, talks about the cleanroom of the Nerviano plant, one of the company's centres of excellence for space activities, a strategic sector with enormous business potential.

Space has become an important part of all of our lives: whenever we use our smartphones (e.g. 50% of apps can only work with positioning data provided by satellites, like Galileo or GPS), or when we talk about the control of critical infrastructure, secure transactions and banking data, and monitoring the Earth’s health. And then there’s the new frontier of space exploration, the people who travel and will travel to the Moon or Mars in future, and those who will be launching into the remotest corners of deep Space.

In short, it is a strategic sector with enormous business potential. In fact, roughly 70 million euro were invested in the Space economy in 2020, generating a total of 300 billion euro; a figure that could rise to 450 billion by 2030 if today’s growth rates are maintained.

Today, as Italy’s largest manufacturer, Leonardo covers 70% of the country’s Space industry, making it a leader in this highly specialised sector and an extremely important player in the international space economy. An achievement that embraces the entire supply chain: the engineering and construction of satellites and orbiting infrastructure; the production of high-tech equipment and sensors; the management of satellite services, and the creation of propulsion and launch systems. Abilities that the company expresses through the know-how in the Electronics business, enhanced even further by the work of Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space.

In fact, through cooperation with national and international research centres, the Leonardo's Nerviano (MI) plant in Italy, is responsible for the development and production of drills, robotic arms, atomic clocks and photovoltaic panels, manufacturing ultra-high-tech equipment for space exploration and the positioning and fuelling of space vehicles. An example of this is the Sample Transfer Arm, a robotic arm that will help bring samples from Mars to Earth in the Mars Sample Return programme, led by NASA in collaboration with the ESA. A technological jewel, based on sophisticated robotics and mechatronics algorithms that can see and act autonomously in the extraordinarily difficult and complex Martian environment to perform all of the tasks required by the mission, such as identifying and extracting samples from the Perseverance Rover lifting them from the ground and inserting them into the container and closing its lid before launching from Mars on the Mars Ascent Vehicle.

Then there are the panels for powering the European service module, Orion, the space vehicle of the Artemis mission, which has the objective of creating the conditions for establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon, or the hydrogen atomic clocks that form the core of the European Galileo satellite system and help to guarantee an incredible degree of precision, with an accuracy of approximately 30 cm on the ground.

Top picture credits: Thales Alenia Space

Go to former episodes:

Nerviano, the home of IRST

The davinci-1 supercomputer, the beating heart of Leonardo

The Battle Lab and the Smart Chair, flying a fighter with the digital