Virgin Galactic, ALTEC Sign MOU to Study Italian Spaceport

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

ROME (ASI PR)– ALTEC S.p.A., the Italian engineering and logistics service provider for the International Space Station, and Virgin Galactic LLC, the US spaceflight company within the Virgin Group, announced the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed to study experimental sub-orbital spaceflight in Italy.

The agreement undertakes the two space companies to investigate the operation of the Virgin Galactic spaceflight system at a designated Italian Spaceport to execute microgravity research, perform pilot and astronaut training, and to conduct educational and space tourism flights.

The proposed cooperation would be based on the use of the Virgin Galactic spaceflight system, in particular the reusable SpaceShipTwo and the carrier vehicle WhiteKnightTwo.  The WhiteKnightTwo acts as the system’s first stage, taking off from a conventional runway and transporting the SpaceShipTwo to about 15.000 Km altitude, for release and subsequent rocket motor ignition to reach the planned operational altitude. The initiative encompasses the study of operations of a future SpaceShipTwo from a suitable Italian launch site (Spaceport) based on an existing airport and featuring the infrastructures to support launch, landing, and refurbishment.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides commented, “I am excited about this agreement with ALTEC and the opportunity to investigate the use of the Virgin Spaceflight system to meet unique European requirements for science, research and astronaut training”.

ALTEC CEO Vincenzo Giorgio remarked that “the agreement positions ALTEC, in cooperation with Virgin Galactic, to deliver novel space science, research, and training from an Italian Spaceport. We look forward to advancing the relevant actions to deliver the benefits for Italy and the region”.

The MoU recognizes the value of Virgin Galactic’s technology for suborbital spaceflight as well as Italy’s long standing background and skills in Aerospace and Space activities. The agreement confirms that Italian Industry will play an important role in the project, subject to U.S. and Italian government approvals.

Italian Space Agency President Roberto Battiston, reporting the MoU in the Space Cabinet Coordination at the Prime Minister office praised the future collaboration: “This innovative alliance acknowledges Italy’s long history and accomplishments in space while embracing a new commercial approach for conducting microgravity research and astronaut training. Italy is at the forefront of a new space economy that is shaping the future of our life and makes space accessible to more people”.