Virgin Galactic To Launch Rockets From New Spaceport in Italy

Jul 9, 2018

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Richard Branson-backed space-flight company Virgin Galactic has signed an agreement to expand its operations to Italy. The company wants to launch customers into space from a future Italian spaceport.

Virgin Galactic is joining with two prominent Italian Aerospace companies, ALTEC and SITAEL, to launch flights from Taranto-Grottaglie Airport (TAR). ALTEC is owned by the Italian Space Agency while SITAEL is the largest private space company in Italy.

According to The Verge, Virgin Galactic will work with the Italian companies to build a unique spacecraft that will only operate from a new Italian spaceport built at Taranto-Grottaglie airport, located in the “boot” of the country. The company is currently testing the VSS Unity out of its spaceport in New Mexico. Virgin plans on keeping its headquarters in New Mexico.

In addition to being available for tourist flights, the new aircraft will be used by the Italian Space Agency and for other scientific experiments. The three organizations have not provided a timeline for when the first flight will actually launch.

Richard Branson cheers after signing an agreement with Italian aerospace companies to bring Virgin Galactic to Italy. Image courtesy of Virgin Galactic.

The VSS Unity has yet to reach outer-space in its trial flights, but Branson says its only two or three tests away before it can exit Earth’s atmosphere. You can actually use Virgin Atlantic Miles to snag a seat, or a discount, on a future Virgin Galactic flight, where tickets cost $250,000.

Virgin and the Italian Space Agency have a history — in 2017 the two partnered to carryout a spaceflight mission by the end of 2019 that would include an Italian researcher. That mission is planned for a New Mexico launch.

Taranto-Grottaglie Airport is an important center for airline production. Large parts of the Boeing 787 fuselages are crafted in the city and then flown via a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter to either Charleston (CHS) or Everett (PAE), where the 787s are then assembled.

Featured image courtesy of Virgin Galactic.

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