According to Roscosmos Italy and Russia will start joined efforts to create new constellation of SAR satellites for global monitoring.
On International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg on 16-18 June 2016, one of the focal points was discussion about further development of bilateral economic relations between countries of European Union and Russia were meeting between Russian President and representatives of European countries. Just before Forum was started, Russian ambassador in Italy, Sergei Rogozin admitted that scheduled meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will be strong impulse for increasing cooperation between both countries. In fact one of the points of discussion during meeting was problem of sanctions which were established by EU on Russia after Crimean crisis which resulted in establishing embargo for food from EU (which covers also products from Italy). But it seems that for the cooperation in space exploration it is not a problem.
Yesterday Roscosmos announced in official statement that Roscosmos Director General Igor Komarov and President of the Italian Space Agency Roberto Battiston signed memorandum for future cooperation to establish new GEOSAR radar system. In memorandum it is mentioned that cooperation will cover both public institutions and commercial companies. New radar system will be based on satellites placed on geosynchronous orbit and equipped in Synthetic Aperture Radar. Possible purpose of the new radar system will be monitoring in agriculture, hydrometeorology and helping in reducing effects of natural disasters. It was also mentioned that Russia and Italy will extend present cooperation and will start to use jointly present remote sensing satellite systems available at the moment what also means that both ASI and Roscosmos will exchange data gathered by their remote sensing satellites. Distribution of liabilities, preliminary design, technical specification and general plan of development of new SAR constellation will be created by scientists and representatives of space industry from both countries in following months.
For Russia it is good news, that EU countries are still considering cooperation with Russia as chance for own space industry. Italy with strong position in EU seems to not considering sanctions against Russia as serious barrier for increasing cooperation in every field what surely will be important example for other countries. If we compare Italian position in this matter with NASA restrictions on cooperation with Roscosmos, it will be quite easy to spot that Vladimir Putin possessed another partner for Roscosmos and European countries are not considering Russia as a threat. ASI which is strongly involved in ESA space program and is one of the most important partners in Ariane 6 launch vehicle program, but it seems that still seeks new possibilities for own space industry outside of EU and ESA. Partnership with Roscosmos will be important source of new experience and know-how but the question is if this partnership will not bring more good for Russia which is desperately seeking new markets for own space companies. If any new constellation of SAR satellites will exist as result of joint efforts of Italy and Russia they will be for sure manufactured with significant role of Russian design offices and facilities and will be delivered to orbit by Russian launch vehicles. Italy probably will acquire new technologies and experience but probably it could be also achieved due the cooperation inside ESA. It is worth to remind that Russian embargo for food from Italy has already brought to Italian agricultural producers lost already €900 million and every method for reducing loss before elections in 2018 is good for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
On picture above: picture created with utilization of SAR equipped satellite.