London - Commercial spaceflight venture Virgin Galactic plans to launch flights from Italy. Last Friday (July 6), the company signed a partnership deal with the Italian aerospace companies SITAEL and ALTEC.

The flights would take off from the future Grottaglie Spaceport in southern Italy. The partnership of the three corporations came after a series of business inquiries, government regulatory analysis, studies on possible operations and market evaluation for more than two years.

After an investigation of potential locations, Italian aviation authority ENAC entitled the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport as the future base of horizontally-launched spaceflights in Italy earlier this year.

This partnership could see Virgin Galactic launch the first person in history into space from Italian soil – and in fact, from any European territory,
Richard Branson, the British businessman, investor and the founder of Virgin Group, said in a statement.

The agreement includes essential technological and industrial contributions from SITAEL, ALTEC and other players in the Italian aerospace industry.

Italy has always been a natural home to great innovators and breakthrough ideas which have shaped the human experience. I believe in 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,
also said, Branson.

The framework agreement is subject to regulatory approvals from the Italian government. In addition to commercial use, flights from Italy could also be used for research by the Italian Space Agency. The operating home of Virgin Galactic remains Spaceport in New Mexico.

Founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson in 2010 and owned by the Virgin Group, Virgin Galactic and its sister companies aim to make space travel experience available for ordinary people.

Virgin Galactic currently has one active spaceplane (VSS Unity), used for test flights. It is developed to take travelers into the suborbital space for just a few minutes before returning to Earth.

Virgin Galactic resumed test flights last year after a fatal accident in 2014. In the past several months, the ship has had two successful test flights.