Italy Today

Italy celebrating the 50th anniversary of the launch of its first satellite

Fifty years later, Samantha Cristoforetti is the first Italian woman to fly into space

Italy celebrating the 50th anniversary of the launch of its first satellite

Claudia Astarita


In December 1964, first Italian satellite San Marco-1 was launched from the Nasa base in Wallops Island, in Virginia, on the east coast of the United States. This achievement made Italy the third country - after the Soviet Union and the US - to send a satellite into the space.

The 1970s were a period of economic expansion that fostered a spatial boom too. Luigi Broglio, an academic of the University La Sapienza in Rome, suggested the building of an International Space Station (ISS) on the equator, on platforms anchored in the Indian Ocean. He was a superb scientist who also invented a special satellite with a scale inside, named after him. This innovative tool was able to measure the conditions of high atmosphere around the equator, never explored until that moment. Thanks to these significant achievements, Italy became an active player within the international technological scenario.

Fifty years later, the launch of the first Italian satellite has been remembered by a tweet sent by "AstroSamantha", the first Italian woman - and the third European one - who is currently flying into space.

Together with the Russian Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov and NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti reached the ISS on the Soyuz spacecraft, which was launched from Baikonur base in Kazakistan: in less than 10 minutes, Soyuz was orbiting around our planet, in a speed of 25.000 km per hour, in a height of 210 km and 190 km under the ISS orbit.

The 1964 launch was the first of a series of ten, and all of them were successful. They all started from a new Italian satellite base opened in Kenya in 1967. Unfortunately, this base is no more active, although the Italian University La Sapienza, which is responsible for the scientific coordination of the rocket launching site, and the Italian Space Agency (Asi), are trying to define a new strategy to re-launch Italian expertise and prestige in this challenging area.

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