Date
16 October 2018
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (4th from right) with Italian government officials and members of Italy's aerospace industry after the signing of the agreement at Sitael's headquarters in  Bari, southern Italy on Friday. Photo: Virgin Galac
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (4th from right) with Italian government officials and members of Italy's aerospace industry after the signing of the agreement at Sitael's headquarters in Bari, southern Italy on Friday. Photo: Virgin Galac

Virgin Galactic, two partners to launch space flights from Italy

Commercial spaceflight venture Virgin Galactic has teamed up with two aerospace companies to launch flights into space from Italy, TechCrunch reports.

Virgin Galactic’s new partners are Altec, owned by the Italian Space Agency, and Sitael, Italy’s largest private space company, according to The Verge.

Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides on Friday signed a framework agreement with Nicola Zaccheo and Vincenzo Giorgio, his counterparts at Sitael and Altec respectively.

The three companies said the flights will be launched from the future Grottaglie Spaceport, but did not provide a timeline.

“This partnership could see Virgin Galactic launch the first person in history into space from Italian soil – and in fact from any European territory,” Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said in a statement.

After an analysis of potential locations, Italian aviation authority ENAC earlier this year designated the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport as the future home for horizontally-launched spaceflights in Italy.

Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2010 and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, Virgin Galactic and its sister companies – Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company – are opening up space access to the world.

Friday’s agreement visualizes a space vehicle system, built by The Spaceship Company and incorporating crucial technological and industrial contributions from Sitael and other players in the Italian aerospace industry, although it is still awaiting regulatory approvals.

The partnership of the three companies resulted from a series of business discussions, government regulatory analysis, studies on potential operations and market assessment that spanned two years altogether.

The signing of the agreement was witnessed by Branson; Vito Pertosa, the founder of Angel Group; Roberto Battiston, the president of the Italian Space Agency; Italian Minister Barbara Lezzi; Michele Emiliano, president of the Apulia Region; Tiziano Onesti, president of Aeroporti di Puglia; and Todd Avery, the commercial officer of the US Embassy in Rome.

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JC/CG

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