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The Vatican will soon have its own satellite orbiting around the Earth. About the size of an American football, the Spei Satelles (Latin for “Guardian of Hope”) will carry a record of Pope Francis’ Statio Orbisfrom March 27, 2020, the extraordinary “urbi et orbi” blessing he gave before an empty St. Peter’s Square at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a note published by Vatican News, “the SpeiSat 3U CubeSat will launch June 10, 2023, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in the US state of California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will place it in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 525km.”
The satellite carries a nano version of Pope Francis’ book “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” – a collection of images and selected fragments from the 2020 Statio Orbis.
The nano book, which is about the size of the tip of a pen, was made in the Polytechnic University of Turin, and can only be read by nanotechnology-reading devices. But anyone who owns a regular UHF-band radio “can pick up a broadcast beamed from the satellite on 437.5 MHz to hear excerpts from the Pope’s book as it passes overhead,” Vatican News explains.
The satellite also has its own website, from which anyone can follow the mission’s progress. One can also have one’s name inscribed in a dedicated memory chip aboard the satellite: It is a virtual boarding pass.
“In order to obtain a virtual boarding pass, those interested will be asked to pledge to do a work of mercy on behalf of peace and hope,” the website reads. “Each person involved can thus become a concrete seed of hope in their daily lives.”
The satellite will stay in orbit for up to 12 years – but the radio transmitter only broadcasts for 6 months to a year, due to battery-induced limitations.