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Construction of the First Italian Spaceport in Taranto

The first Italian spaceport will be located in Taranto, in the South-eastern region Apulia.  The news has been given by the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport after completion of the evaluation process carried out by ENAC (the Italian CAA) to identify the most suitable site to realize and launch the spaceport infrastructure within 2020.

The choice of the location – for an infrastructure expected to become a basic pillar of a new era – follows the agreement signed in December 2017 by Altec (an Italian company jointly owned by the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space, the Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer) and the US leading player Virgin Galactic of Mr. Richard Branson, that is developing the so-called “Space Ship Two”, a shuttle to be engaged in suborbital flights intended for the space tourism, along with its shuttle carrier aircraft “WhiteKnightTwo” that will bring the shuttle up to 15,000 meters, where it will be released to then reach the planned operational height by the activation of its rocket-powered engine.  Virgin Galactic is also working on the production and launch of small satellites in the low orbit.

According to the said agreement, the parties will evaluate the operational opportunities created by the Italian spaceport, from suborbital test flights to the training of astronauts and pilots, from educational sessions to space tourism services.

In a pioneer country like the United States the commercial space transportation represents an important transition towards a regular exploitation of the extra-atmospheric resources by private entities also for commercial purposes, while space activities worldwide have been mainly conducted by public institutions or state-owned companies so far.  Space transport is therefore a significant business opportunity also for the Italian economy, as clearly outlined by the president of the Italian Space Agency at a recent meeting with the press:  “The space flight for touristic purposes is close to be achieved.  This new market will need appropriate areas for the take-off and landing of the space vehicles throughout the globe.  Italy can offer the main characteristics to address this need of new infrastructures, favourable climate conditions, a territory surrounded by the sea, thousands of touristic attractions for visitors from all over the world.  Today we know that the first spaceport will come to reality very soon“.

These words are confirmed by data recently made available in respect of the Italian space industry:  the national market is currently worth Euro 1,6 billion and employs 6000 workers, both numbers being under a continuous growth.

Furthermore, space activities are among those with the largest return in terms of investment, around Euro 5 per each Euro invested, which increases up to Euro 10 if the investment concerns telecommunications services by way of satellite devices.

This article, written by L2b member Francesco Grassetti of Studio Pierallini, was originally published in Aviation Journal May 2018, no. 2.  

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