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Dante Galli

A New Era for Space Exploration

The SpaceInfo Club had the pleasure to ask him some questions. Mr Galli has been part of the European Space Agency for almost ten years and after working on the Vega-C launcher, he’s now the programme manager for one of the most advanced Space programs nowadays: The Space Rider. Enjoy the read!

Can you share your journey and background that led you to become the Space Rider Programme Manager at the European Space Agency (ESA)?

As a kid, always dreamt about being an astronaut. It turned out that I was close finally, but still not enough! I Graduated in Aerospace Engineering at Rome University La Sapienza and started working as thermo-structural engineer consultant for Thales Alenia Space (just Alenia, at the time), working on Radarsat-2 programme.

I moved then in 2003 on the VEGA project at AVIO, as Product Engineer responsible for the AVUM 4th stage AIT and since then working on space transportation, with different roles.

I joined European Space Agency in 2007, working first as Ground Segment Mechanical Infrastructures Manager for the VEGA launch site in Kourou. Quite an experience, lot of months spent in French Guiana following the launch site taking shape. An emotional and greatly rewarding work experience crowned by the flawless VEGA flight of 13th February 2012.

Then I moved to the launch vehicle, serving ESA first as System Engineer and then as Lead System Synthesis Engineer for the VEGA-C Programme.

Finally end-2020 I joined the Space Rider Programme as Space Segment Manager, responsible for all the development and qualification activities of the Space Rider vehicle. 

And since January 2022 I’m the Space Rider Programme Manager, in the ESA Directorate of Space Transportation, responsible for the full development of the system: space segment, ground segment and landing site.

As the Space Rider Programme Manager, what are the key objectives and goals you aim to achieve with the Space Rider program? Will the first launch happen in 2024?

My primary and foremost objective is, of course, to contribute to the successful execution of this captivating and challenging programme, that means not only to take flight but also to accomplish the intended experiments in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) (with 18 payloads already on board!) and return to Earth, to be refurbished and ready to re-fly with a new set of experiments. 

On a broader and more significant scale, aligning with the European Space Agency's (ESA) vision for the future of European Space Transportation, as outlined in our DG Agenda 2025 and also in the conclusions of the recent Sevilla Space Summit, the programme has a key objective focused on reusability towards sustainability. This aims to promote a more sustainable use of space by developing interconnected critical technologies and innovations. Another pivotal goal is commercialization, striving for routine access to space, in-orbit activities, and an efficient return from space in a competitive and effective manner.

Regarding the inaugural launch, it will not occur in 2024. This delay is primarily due to inherent delays in the Space Rider development, despite recent notable achievements, including first successful Flight-to-Ground System Validation Test campaign. Flight hardware is in the manufacturing process (with some flight units already delivered), progressing towards the testing and validation phase. Secondarily, we need to consider that the inaugural flight of Space Rider shall be accommodated in the VEGA-C launch manifest, which is already quite busy and we also need to take into account that Vega-C’s return to flight is now planned for Q4/2024. Thus, the launch date will be announced once major system tests (like the drop test campaign of this year) will be completed and the launch manifest of VEGA-C consolidated following its return to flight.


To read the full interview - for free! - just log-in or sign-up and go for the Edition 23 of the SpaceInfo Magazine: enjoy the read!


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