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Virgin Orbit and SITAEL sign agreement for long-term collaboration and investment

(6 July 2018 - Virgin Orbit) Virgin Orbit and SITAEL announced today that they have signed an agreement for extensive collaboration between the two firms, including multiple orbital launches and investment into future launch system evolution.

The agreement was signed by SITAEL CEO Nicola Zaccheo and Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart on Friday during a ceremony featuring Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, Angel Group founder 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.

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A completed LauncherOne rocket, shown here outside Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing facility in Long Beach, California, USA. (courtesy Virgin Orbit / Greg Robinson)

SITAEL previously selected Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket to launch μHETsat, a novel electric propulsion technology demonstrator mission built for the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI). Today, this new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recognizes the significant steps the two organizations have taken toward a broader, longer-term relationship.

Additionally, LauncherOne’s unique capabilities as an air-launched rocket potentially unlock the opportunity to conduct orbital launches from Italian soil. In the coming months, SITAEL and Virgin Orbit will complete a study of the technical and regulatory feasibility of such missions, which would be the first ever flights to space from Italy and will include significant technological and industrial contributions from SITAEL.

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

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."

Mr. Vito Pertosa, founder of Angel Group, said, "The possibility to operate orbital launches from Puglia is a good opportunity for SITAEL as well as for the whole European and Italian space industry, both in terms of time to market and cost efficiency."

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said, “The flexibility and responsiveness that come with an air-launched, highly portable system are proving to be extremely appealing to the global community of small satellite operators. The opportunity to help fantastic companies like SITAEL reach space on their terms and their schedule is exactly what we were created to do.”

SITAEL CEO Nicola Zaccheo said: “With this agreement Sitael reiforces its position as one of the main players of the New Space Economy. The demand for small satellites grows higher every day and the ability to launch on flexible terms and schedule is vital. Moreover the possibility to invest in launch activities and our ongoing work with Virgin Orbit is an incredibly promising way to secure exactly the type of launch solution we and our customers need.”

About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit provides dedicated, responsive, and affordable launch services for small satellites. Virgin Orbit designs, manufactures, tests, and operates a system called LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are made in the USA in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon.

About SITAEL

SITAEL is the largest privately-owned Space Company in Italy and worldwide leader in the Small Satellites sector. With over 350 employees and state-of-the-art facilities, SITAEL covers a wide range of activities in development of small satellite platforms, advanced propulsion systems and on board avionics, providing turn-key solutions for Earth observation, telecom and science.

Being one of the main players of the Space Economy, SITAEL is changing the way to conceive space products, both in the upstream and downstream segments, providing, thanks to its IoT capabilities, competitive smart services for a wide range of applications.

SITAEL belongs to Angel Group, an Italian holding world leader in Railway, Aerospace and Aeronautics markets.