Virgin Galactic wants to send tourists to space, and its newly announced partnership with two of the biggest aerospace companies in Italy might help it get on its way.
According to The Verge, the company eventually wants to build a dedicated spaceport in Italy with its own resident spaceplane. The spaceplane would be available to paying customers who want to experience zero-gravity, or used to conduct experiments in a high-altitude, gravity-free environment.
To pull off the ambitious feat, Virgin Galactic is recruiting help from new partners, Altec (owned by the Italian Space Agency), and Sitael (the biggest private space company in Italy).
“Italy has always been a natural home to great innovators and breakthrough ideas, which have shaped the human experience,” Virgin Group founder (and notorious table dancer) Richard Branson said.
“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.
“This partnership could see Virgin Galactic launch the first person in history into space from Italian soil — and, in fact, from any European territory.”
Virgin Galactic currently has one active spaceplane called the VSS Unity, which has conducted test flights but not actually gone into space.
The plane is designed to take passengers into suborbital space for just a few minutes before returning back to Earth, and already has a waiting list of some 700 passengers eager for the trip at $250,000 (£188,628) per ticket.