Rome: The Holy See to Send a Satellite into Space

March 31, 2023
A Falcon 9 rocket

The launch is scheduled for June 10, 2023. On that day, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will send a nanosatellite from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and put it into low earth orbit. This minisatellite will contain a “nanobook” intended to transmit from space.

The mission, designed and organized by the Dicastery for Communication in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency, the Polytechnic University of Turin, the Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnology of the CNR and the Digital Apostolate of Turin, was presented on March 27, 2023.

The space satellite “Spei Satelles” – which means “Guardian of hope” in Latin – is intended to put into orbit Pope Francis’ message called Statio Orbis, delivered on March 27, 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, at the St. Peter's Square.

A few days before the launch, on Wednesday May 29, Pope Francis will bless the satellite and the nanobook at the end of the general audience.

The “SpeiSat” satellite is a 2-millimeter by 2-millimeter by 0.2-millimeter silicon plate, equipped with solar panels. It was designed by a team of students from the space department of the Polytechnic University of Turin with the aim of lasting “at least six months” and a maximum of 12 years.

The nanobook is “a silicon structure with a diameter of two millimeters,” explains Andrea Notargiacomo, chief researcher at the CNR's Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnology. It contains the Statio Orbis, as has already been said.

An on-board system will allow the satellite to broadcast excerpts of the speech in English, Spanish, and Italian. The signal can be picked up by amateur radio stations all around the world at the 437.5 MHz frequency.

The satellite will orbit 525 km above sea level. Pope Francis will bless the satellite during the May 29 general audience. The overall budget for the project has not yet been disclosed.

For the record, the Statio Orbis, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, has already been deposited in miniature form in the World Seed Bank, in the Svalbard vault, in the Arctic archipelago of the Svalbard Islands, some 1200 km from the North Pole.