San Marco Platform

San Marco platform
Scout rocket on the launchpad.
Launch site San Marco platform

Malindi, Kenya 2°56′18″S 40°12′45″E / 2.93833°S 40.21250°E / -2.93833; 40.21250


Italian Space Agency

(formerly University of Rome La Sapienza, NASA)
Total launches 27
Launch pad(s) 2
Minimum / maximum
orbital inclination
San Marco launch history
Status Inactive
Launches 24
First launch Scout B, 26 April 1967
Last launch Scout G-1, 25 March 1988
Associated rockets Scout
Nike Tomahawk
Black Brant
Santa Rita launch history
Status Inactive
Launches 3
First launch Apache, 25 March 1964
Last launch Apache, 2 April 1964
Associated rockets Apache

The Luigi Broglio Space Centre (BSC) is an Italian-owned spaceport near Malindi, Kenya, named after its founder and Italian space pioneer Luigi Broglio.[1] Developed in the 1960s through a partnership between the University of Rome La Sapienza's Aerospace Research Centre and NASA, the BSC served as a spaceport for the launch of both Italian and international satellites. The centre comprises a main offshore launch site, known as the San Marco platform, as well as two secondary control platforms and a communications ground station on the mainland. In 2003 a legislative decree handed the Italian Space Agency management of the centre, beginning in 2004, and the name changed from the previous San Marco Equatorial Range.[2][3] While the ground station is still in use for satellite communications, the BSC is not currently used as a launch site.[4]


The San Marco platform was a former oil platform, located to the north of Cape Ras Ngomeni on the coastal sublittoral of Kenya, at 2°56′18″S 40°12′45″E / 2.93833°S 40.21250°E / -2.93833; 40.21250, close to the equator (which is an energetically favourable location for rocket launches). Launches from the platform were controlled from the Santa Rita platform, a second former oil platform located southeast of the San Marco platform, and a smaller Santa Rita II housed the facility's radar. A ground station located on the cape forms the centre's primary telemetry site.[3]

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Broglio Space Centre
Location of the BSC, just south of the Equator (represented by the nearby town of Nanyuki)

The Italian space research program began in 1959 with the creation of the CRA (Centro Ricerche Aerospaziali) at the University of Rome. Three years later, on 7 September 1962, the university signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA to collaborate on a space research program named San Marco (St. Mark). The Italian launch team, trained by NASA, was to first launch a rocket from Wallops Island under NASA supervision and first launch successfully took off on 16 December 1964. The San Marco project was focused on the launching of scientific satellites by Scout rockets from a mobile rigid platform located close to the equator. This station, composed of 3 oil platforms and two logistical support boats, was installed off the Kenya coast, close to the town of Malindi.

The program schedule included three phases:

  • Suborbital launches from Wallops Island and the equatorial platform,
  • Orbital launch of an experimental satellite from Wallops Island,
  • Orbital launches from the equatorial platform.

The San Marco launch platform complex was in use from March 1964 to March 1988, with a total of 27 launches, primarily sounding rockets including the Nike Apache, Nike Tomahawk, Arcas and Black Brant launchers. Low payload weight orbital launches were also made, using the solid-propellant Scout rocket (in its B, D and G subvariants). The first satellite specifically for X-ray astronomy, Uhuru, was launched from San Marco on a Scout B rocket on 12 December 1970.

The ground segment is in use and continues to track NASA, ESA and Italian satellites. However, the two platforms fell into disrepair during the 1990s. Recently, the Italian Space Agency has conducted a feasibility study to reactivate it for the Russian launcher START-1.[a]

Satellite launches

Launch Date Vehicle Payload NSSDC ID Comments
26-04-1967 Scout B San Marco 2 1967-038A San Marco 1 had previously been launched from Wallops in the USA
12-12-1970 Scout B Uhuru (SAS-A) 1970-107A
24-04-1971 Scout B San Marco-3 1971-036A
15-11-1971 Scout B S-Cubed A 1971-096A
15-11-1972 Scout D-1 SAS-B 1972-091A
18-02-1974 Scout D-1 San Marco-4 1974-009A
15-10-1974 Scout B-1 Ariel 5 1974-077A Satellite operations were directed from a control center at the Appleton Lab, U.K.
07-05-1975 Scout F-1 SAS-C 1975-037A
25-03-1988 Scout G-1 San Marco-D/L 1988-026A

See also

Spaceflight portal


  • a. ^ "Nel Marzo 2004, una Delegazione ASI e una Delegazione Russa sono state in visita al Centro Spaziale Luigi Broglio di Malindi, in Kenya, per verificare le condizioni tecniche di riutilizzo della base di lancio, mediante lanciatori russi, di tipo START-1. Il risultato della visita è stato estremamente positivo e le Parti hanno concordato sulla fattibilità di lancio dalle piattaforme marine."

(English: In March 2004, a delegation from ASI and a Russian delegation went to visit the Luigi Broglio Space Centre in Malindi, Kenya, in order to verify the technical conditions of re-use of the launch site for use by Russian launchers of the type START-1. The result of the visit has been extremely positive and both parties have agreed on the feasibility of launching from the marine platform.)[5]


External links

  • San Marco platform at Astronautix
  • The San Marco Project Research Centre
  • Internet Archive, last update in 2006)
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