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"Vega, an Italian success story"

All the main national protagonists and international stakeholders in the program met at ASI's Rome offices for a day of planning and reflection

For the second time, ASI's new offices in Rome have hosted a meeting-workshop on the Vega program, covering a wide range of themes. The first time, back in July 2013, came right after the success of the exploitation flight, just over a year from the perfectly executed qualification flight in February 2012.

This time, after Vega's strategic role was confirmed at the last ESA Ministerial Council, the meeting covered a far wider range of issues, taking up the entire day.

The event was attended by a large, particularly active and highly qualified audience, including representatives from both the specific institutional, research and industrial bodies involved in the Vega production chain, and the main stakeholders in the national space sector.

Together with ASI Launchers Unit Manager Arturo de Lillis, the meeting was opened and closed by Italian Space Agency President and host Roberto Battiston, who repeatedly emphasised the absolute importance for all national stakeholders of really feeling part of a "community".

Mr Battiston explained that "one of the reasons we're here is to celebrate the extraordinary results that we have achieved (...)", adding that "thanks to the work of many people here, and some of us, Vega was assigned a key role in ESA's space access strategy in the last Ministerial Council".

Speaking outside the event, Mr de Lillis commented that "we hit the two goals of the meeting spot on: to share the whole experience of developing and launching Vega's exploitation phase as widely and as systematically as possible, and to raise awareness among everyone involved, forming a strong community that is more capable of analysing and overcoming the problems we have encountered so far".

The workshop involved nine sessions held in the ASI Auditorium, from a talk on the origins of the program by de Lillis and Emanuela D'Aversa, to a report on Vega developments by Stefano Bianchi, Vega program manager at ESA, followed by a speech on the role of universities and CIRA. In the afternoon, the meeting dealt with more technical issues - such as the market, the evolution of the program and new engines - and governance.

Last year, contracts were signed for 10 launches, for a value of approximately €260 million, with the prospect of signing similar contracts every 3-4 years. Battiston specified that "we have requests for around 4 launches a year, well beyond the program's 'financial sustainability' requirements of 2.5 launches per year".

The development of Vega-C with a P-120 engine should bring production up to 36 engines per year by 2020, for a total value of several hundred million Euros. Mr Battiston drew particular attention to this financial situation, emphasising, among other things, the role of the two "facilities" in the ESA Spaceport in Kourou: Regulus and Europropulsion.

The first (40% owned by Avio and 60% by Eracles-Safran) employs between 70 and 100 staff, according to workload, while the second (50% owned by Avio and ASI) has around 40 personnel units, employing 110-140 extremely highly qualified professionals, half of whom are Italian.

Speaking to the press outside the event, Mr Battiston highlighted that "today, Italy can cover the complete range from launchers, to satellites through to data analysis. Not many countries can boast these conditions." He added that "some very interesting and promising scenarios are opening up: the fact that Vega will be launching Google's first two satellites is a perfect example of the excellent reasons for holding this meeting today".