06 July 2018

ALTEC, SITAEL, Virgin Galactic & The Spaceship Company Sign Framework to Bring Commercial Spaceflights to Italy

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Grottaglie, Italy (Friday, July 6, 2018): Nicola Zaccheo, Sitael CEO, Vincenzo Giorgio, Altec CEO, and George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO, signed at Sitael headquarters a framework agreement that intends to bring Virgin Galactic spaceflights to Italy.

The agreement comes after two years of business discussions, government regulatory analysis, studies on potential operations and market assessment and the signature was witnessed also by the founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Angel Group Mr. Vito Pertosa, the President of the Italian Space Agency Mr. Roberto Battiston, the Italian Minister Ms. Barbara Lezzi, the President of Apulia Region Mr. Michele Emiliano, the President of the Aeroporti di Puglia Mr. Tiziano Onesti and the Commercial Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Rome Todd Avery.

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.”

In September 2016 Altec – a public-private company owned by the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space – signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Virgin Galactic. In August 2017 the U.S. Department of State approved a Technical Assistance Agreement for the development of a plan for ultimate construction of an Italian spaceport, that will provide the infrastructure for future Virgin Galactic suborbital flights. Virgin Galactic’s operational headquarters remains at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport.

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.

Sitael, the largest privately-owned space company in Italy with headquarters in Puglia region, is partnering with Altec and Virgin Galactic in order to define the framework that will lead the spaceflight operations from Grottaglie Spaceport.

The agreement signed today envisions a dedicated space vehicle system, built by Virgin Galactic’s sister enterprise The Spaceship Company, being positioned at the future Grottaglie Spaceport, which will integrate significant technological and industrial contribution from Sitael and the rest of Italian Aerospace industry, pending regulatory approvals.

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

Representatives of Italian Government and Puglia Region together with leadership of the U.S. Embassy in Rome were present to show their support for the plan, highlighting the strategic relevance of the project for both US and Italy. 

ABOUT VIRGIN GALACTIC

 Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. Founded by Sir Richard Branson and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, Virgin Galactic and its sister companies-Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company–are opening access to space to change the world for good. To revolutionize human spaceflight, Virgin Galactic is testing the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, a reusable space launch system. The number of customers who paid to reserve places to fly on SpaceShipTwo is already greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space throughout history. SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, are manufactured and tested in Mojave, California by Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing wing, The Spaceship Company. Commercial operations will be based in New Mexico at Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Galactic’s talented and growing team, visit 3.211.4.172

ABOUT THE SPACESHIP COMPANY

 The Spaceship Company is Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing sister organization. Headquartered in Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, it is building and testing a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo reusable spaceships that, together, form Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflight system. Like many Virgin companies across the world, its team of over 500 talented and dedicated engineers, technicians and professionals are drawn together by a willingness to disrupt and challenge the status quo and deliver innovative aerospace solutions to our customers’ needs. The Spaceship Company has a straightforward name: as you would expect, we build spaceships. But we also do much more. The Spaceship Company’s extensive capabilities encompass preliminary vehicle design and analysis, manufacturing, ground testing, flight testing and post-delivery support. The Spaceship Company team is uniquely positioned to offer end-to-end aerospace development with thousands of years of cumulative experience in design, manufacturing, and testing.

GEORGE WHITESIDES

GEORGE WHITESIDES

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD CHAIR

George T. Whitesides is the Chair of the Space Advisory Board, where he is responsible for bringing together aerospace leaders to advise the Virgin Galactic senior management team on the journey towards regular commercial spaceflight, developing the next generation vehicles and exploring new opportunities. Previously, George served as the Chief Space Officer of Virgin Galactic, spearheading the development of future technologies, including high speed, point-to-point travel and orbital flight, after stepping down as CEO in 2020.

George joined Virgin Galactic in 2010 as Chief Executive Officer. During George’s 10 years with the Company, he built the company from 30 people to a workforce of over 900, successfully guiding Virgin Galactic through its human space flight R&D and flight test program, culminating in two space flights. These historic flights saw the first humans launched into space from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, as well as the first woman to fly on a commercial space vehicle. George led the transition of operations from Mojave, California to Spaceport America, New Mexico, and oversaw the company’s successful public listing making it a multi-billion dollar company and creating the world’s first publicly traded human spaceflight venture.

Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA. Upon departure from the American space agency, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

George’s volunteer service includes Caltech’s Space Innovation Council, Princeton University’s Advisory Council for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Antelope Valley Economic Development & Growth Enterprise. He is a fellow of the UK Royal Aeronautical Society and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

He previously served as Vice Chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of Virgin Galactic, a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies, and the Board of Virgin Unite USA. George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. An honors graduate of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, George later earned a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge, and a Fulbright Scholarship to Tunisia. George is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.

He resides in California with his wife Loretta and two children.

CHRIS HADFIELD

CHRIS HADFIELD

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Colonel Chris Hadfield is a heavily decorated astronaut, engineer, and test pilot who has commanded the International Space Station. Formerly NASA’s Director of Operations in Russia and veteran of three spaceflights, Hadfield’s many awards include the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. Hadfield is a three-time NYT bestselling author, a renowned musician, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, chair of the board of the Open Lunar Foundation, and host of several internationally acclaimed television series. In addition, Hadfield leads the space stream at the Creative Destruction Lab, one of the world’s top tech incubators.

DR SANDRA MAGNUS

DR SANDRA MAGNUS

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Dr. Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus is the Principal at AstroPlanetview, LLC. Most recently she served as the Deputy Director of Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the Undersecretary of Research and Engineering. In that role she served as the “Chief Engineer” for the Department of Defense establishing engineering policy, propagating best practices and working to connect the engineering community across the department.

Dr. Magnus is the former Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Prior to leading AIAA, she was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps for 16 years. During her time at NASA she flew in space on the STS-112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, and returned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board.

Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office.

While at NASA, Dr. Magnus worked extensively with the international community, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), as well as with Brazil on facility-type payloads. She also spent time in Russia developing and integrating operational products and procedures for the International Space Station.

Before joining NASA, Dr. Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company as a stealth engineer. While at McDonnell Douglas, she worked on internal R&D and on the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program.

Dr. Magnus has received numerous awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the 40 at 40 Award (given to former collegiate women athletes to recognize the impact of Title IX).

DAVID A. WHELAN

DAVID A. WHELAN

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Dr. David A. Whelan is the SVP Chief-Scientist of Cubic Corporation. Dr. Whelan retired from Boeing in 2017, as the Vice President, Engineering (BDS) and Board of Directors for HRL Laboratories. Whelan served as Director of the Tactical Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and began his career at Northrop as designer of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Whelan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Physical Society and IEEE. He earned his Ph.D. Physics from UCLA; He holds over 75 US patents.