Vatican counts down to launch pope’s message in satellite


Pope Francis’ message of hope and peace for the troubled world is about to lift off into space.

The Spei Satelles, Latin for “Satellites of Hope,” will carry a record of the Pope’s Statio Orbis of March 27, 2020—held at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic—into orbit around the earth.

The SpeiSat 3U cube satellite (cubsat) will launch on June 10 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will place it in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 525 kilometers.

Peaceful payload

The cubesat—about the size of an American football—will house a nanobook version of Pope Francis’s Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?, a book containing images and words from the Statio Orbis.

The nanobook that was created by the Polytechnic University of Turin, is about the size of the tip of a pen, and can only be read by highly-advanced nanotechnology reading devices.

Yet, anyone with an amateur 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.

Hope and action

The initiative also offers an invitation for people to get involved, and live out the Gospel message of hope in their own lives.

According to a press release, the website gives people the chance to follow the mission’s progress, and have their name inscribed in a dedicated memory chip aboard SpeiSat.

“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,” read the statement. “Each person involved can, thus, become a concrete seed of hope in their daily lives.”

The satellite could potentially stay in orbit for up to 12 years, but the radio transmitter will continue to broadcast for only six months to a year due to battery-induced limitations.

Representation of the nanobook Prophetic icon of hope

The headquarters of Vatican News-Vatican Radio hosted a press conference on Monday to present the initiative, exactly three years after the momentous papal prayer was held in St. Peter’s Square.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication—the parent organization of Vatican News—is promoting the initiative in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency, the National Research Council, the Polytechnic University of Turin, the Instituto para el Diálogo Global y la Cultura del Encuentro, the Salesian University Institute Venice, and the Digital Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Turin.

Fr. Luca Peyron, who leads the Digital Apostolate of Turin, told reporters that the SpeiSat carries a prophetic message of hope, spread through the marvels of advanced technology.

“Even though the nanobook cannot be read with the naked eye,” he said, “it will be there, orbiting our planet. It, thus, becomes a sign and an icon, just like Pope Francis as he stood alone in that empty St. Peter’s Square.”