Telespazio’s “Piero Fanti” Space Centre in Fucino (L’Aquila) opened in 1963 and today, with its 42 control rooms (five of which run 24 hours a day), 170 antennas, 250 employees and 37 hectares of surface area, it is Europe’s biggest teleport and one of the largest in the world. This is a strategic infrastructure for Italy, where in-orbit satellite control activities take place, and, in general, all activities related to space missions for leading satellite operators: satellite and ground station network operations management; flight dynamics management for every type of civil and military satellite mission; all types of satellites and orbits - GEO (Geostationary Equatorial Orbit), MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) and LEO (Low Earth Orbit); and data transmission control down to the final operator. Not only that, Fucino also provides telecommunication, television and multimedia services, as well as LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) services. The LEOP is the highly critical phase from when the satellite separates from the carrier rocket until it reaches its final orbital position. This is when most of the fuel is used to power the manoeuvres in bringing the satellite from the orbit where the carrier rocket leaves it to its final orbital position. All the control and management activities relating to this phase occur in special LEOP rooms. Errors are forbidden since any error increases propellant consumption and thus shortens the satellite’s service life. It is no coincidence that the LEOP’s preparation takes several years.
Fucino is also home to the Control Centre for the COSMO-SkyMed constellation of earth observation satellites and to one of the two Control Centres that manage Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation and localisation system (the other is in Germany).
The Italian Galileo Control Centre (GCC-I) is an infrastructure of approximately 6,000 square metres that handles the processing and distribution of the navigation signal to the satellites and the constant control of the quality of service offered to end users. It also manages the Galileo Data Dissemination Network (GDDN), which, we should remember, includes approximately 50 ground stations. Galileo is a crucial system for Europe’s strategic independence and for all related services: from banking to positioning and navigation, not forgetting the military services that will one day provide guidance and precision for weapons systems. Galileo stands out for its extreme accuracy, superior to its American counterpart, GPS, an accuracy ensured by the system’s “heart” – the atomic clocks produced by Leonardo in its Nerviano plant near Milan.
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