Virgin Galactic has signed a deal with two Italian aerospace companies – Sitael and Altec – to open a commercial spaceport in Grottaglie, southern Italy.

The agreement comes after two years of business discussions, government regulatory analysis, studies on potential operations and market assessment.

Altec is a public-private company owned by the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space. Sitael is Italy’s largest privately owned space company.

The companies envision a dedicated space vehicle system, built by Virgin Galactic’s sister enterprise The Spaceship Company, being positioned at the future Grottaglie Spaceport.

Dual usage

The space vehicle would be used by customers like the Italian Space Agency as a science platform for high-frequency space research, as well as private individuals to experience space. The aim is that this dual usage will drive innovation, spur industrial development, and further STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as promote further investments and economic growth in Puglia and Italy as a whole.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said “From the Renaissance to modern space science, Italy has always been a natural home to great innovators and breakthrough ideas which have shaped the human experience. I believe Italy’s vision which has led to this collaboration with our Virgin space companies, will provide a real impetus as we strive to open space for the benefit of life on Earth.

“This partnership could see Virgin Galactic launch the first person in history into space from Italian soil – and in fact from any European territory. Together, we will help to expand opportunities for science, industry and the millions of people who dream of experiencing space for themselves.”

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