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Italian Space Agency and Virgin Galactic sign a Joint Declaration

To expand their partnership to include suborbital flight capabilities and operations from the future Italian spaceport of Grottaglie

Recounting their previous intention to launch ASI payloads and an Italian Payload Specialist on SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America, today in Bari, ASI President Roberto Battiston and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides agreed to apply the knowledge that will be gained in commercial space flights to future suborbital flight opportunities in Italy, which was also attended by the Minister  Barbara Lezzi, Nicola Zaccheo (CEO Sitael), Vincenzo Giorgio (CEO Altec) and Vito Pertosa, founder di Angel Group.


The parties also wish to pursue other opportunities, including the use of suborbital microgravity for education, astronaut training, biology and biotechnology research and technology and material development also in view of future long duration microgravity missions.


“I think that suborbital flights are an important element of the future utilization of space”, said Roberto Battiston. “Our participation in this exciting operation is the clear signal that Italy is at the forefront of a new space economy that is changing our future and makes space accessible to more investors. No coincidence that just two days ago in occasion of the 30th anniversary of ASI we announced the launch of the first Italian space investment fund. Space tourism, space manufacturing, in orbit servicing are key topics of the space segment of the new space economy”.


Mr George Whitesides said: “This new memorandum of understanding is a promising step in our continuing conversation with Italian government, industry and space science stakeholders. Our mission is to open space access for commercial customers, for both science and human spaceflight purposes. ASI’s interest in suborbital flights for scientific purposes is an example of how public-private partnerships can meet global agencies’ growing needs for increased space access for science. We look forward to continued collaboration, exploring potential future steps to realize these possibilities.”


ASI and Italian industry have extensive experience in suborbital research and orbital microgravity research. ASI, along with national competent entities and authorities and Virgin Galactic wish to partner to take full advantage of aerospace research and technology development opportunities offered by flights of the Virgin Galactic Spaceship  from the future Italian Spaceport of Grottaglie.


Today’s joint declaration is following the Letter of Intent under which the Italian Space Agency and Virgin Galactic entered into negotiations to conduct a suborbital flight no earlier than September 2019.  Although the first ASI Virgin Galactic partnership flight is scheduled to take place from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the opening of the new  Italian spaceport  in Puglia, in southern Italy, offers Virgin Galactic and ASI the ability to conduct sustained operations from the Taranto-Grottaglie airport. Last May, the  Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport and ENAC (National Civil Aviation Authority) designated Grottaglie as the first Italian spaceport. ALTEC (company owned by ASI and Thales Alenia Space) and SITAEL have signed an agreement with Virgin Galactic to create an Italian Spaceship Company to operate from southern Italy. The new space infrastructure could also be the access route to space for other types of activities, beyond tourism, such as the launch of small satellites, astronaut training, microgravity science or testing for new technologies.