An artist's impression of space-themed entertainment park in Saudi Arabia

Virgin Galactic secures Italian space port as launch site for suborbital flights

Image credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has unveiled plans to launch its suborbital flights from a spaceport in Italy.

The company has inked a deal with Italy’s leading private space company SITAEL and ALTEC, a public-private company owned by both the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space.

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

The final signature was witnessed by, among others, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.

As well as space tourism, flights aboard the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity spacecraft will be utilised by customers like the Italian Space Agency as a science platform for high-frequency space research.

It is hoped this dual use will drive innovation in the Italian space sector and spur industrial development.

Branson 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.”

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

In April 2018, Virgin Galactic successfully completed its first supersonic, rocket-powered flight with SpaceShipTwo, three years after a fatal accident involving an earlier version of the ship, a disaster which set back the company’s plans.

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