Virgin Galactic, Italian Air Force Work Together on Research Flight
Virgin Galactic revealed a new contract with the Italian Air Force for a research flight on the company’s SpaceShipTwo system during which Italian researchers will actively conduct experiments while they are in space. The contract marks the first time a government department has funded a human-tended research flight on a commercial space vehicle.
The mission, set to take place as early as 2020, will fly three Italian payload specialists and a rack of research payloads. The Italian Air Force payload specialists and Virgin Galactic’s payload team are working with the Italian National Research Center (CNR) on the design of the experimental payloads. The payload will include medical instrumentation that will measure the biological effects of the transitional phase from gravity to micro gravity on the human body. Other testing equipment may be used to help develop a new understanding of the chemistry of green fuels.
Maurizio Greganti, Chargé d’affaires at the Embassy of Italy in D.C., said: “The agreement between the Italian Air Force and Virgin Galactic is the result of the cooperation with the relevant Italian and US space institutions which has been ongoing for a very long time. For the first time an Italian Government institution is acquiring a private suborbital flight. We are delighted with this level of cooperation which is a further confirmation of the strength and potential of the relations between our two countries, which expand to cutting-edge space technology.”