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How Italy plans to throw its weight around in space

How Italy intends to throw its weight around in the space sector
As the Enterprise Minister explained, geopolitics in orbit is “increasingly pre-eminent” – and Rome must draw up laws regulating the sector, to be unveiled at the next budget law

Please look up. Italy has no laws regulating its activities in space. A fault, as “geopolitics is increasingly prominent” in in-orbit activities. That’s what Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso (who has responsibility over space affairs) remarked on Tuesday during a hearing in front of Parliament’s Commission for Productive Activities.

  • He then explained that the government intends to present a draft regulation within the next budget law (this coming autumn) so that MPs may work on it and complete the process in time for the 2024 budget law.
  • This follows the government’s announced push to expand its role in European space programmes, foster the growth of its national space industry and turbocharge space cooperation with the United States.

Preserving legacy, multiplying prowess. “Italy was one of the first space powers,” and today, the space sector is among the country’s “most strategic,” recalled Minister Urso. That’s also true for the Italian industry, which boasts 300 space companies operating on Italian territory and a country-wide turnover worth €4.5 billion annually.

  • These are both large players who compete on the international markets and small and medium-sized enterprises, including start-ups and spin-offs, that “represent an excellent potential for research and growth.”
  • The country can also count on “50,000 specialised employees out of a total of 200,000 in the supply chain,” which relies on over 4,000 companies – 90% of which are SMEs.

From space clean-up to militarisation. The new space regulation will cover space-connected issues, explained Minister Urso, starting with space junk. In this area, national aerospace champions Alenia and Thales are “working [to develop] aircraft that recover debris or move it to other orbits.” That’s “a very important and significant Italian technology, and we want to exploit it,” he added.

  • Noting that space is among NATO’s operative domains – alongside land, sea, air and cyberspace – the minister pointed out its ongoing militarisation and the need to protect Italy’s national interest.

Money talks. Minister Urso specified that the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Space (which he chairs) had set aside €2 billion to invest in the space economy. An additional €1.2 billion will come from the EU-bankrolled recovery plan, and all contracts “have been concluded on time.” That money will benefit both major players and SMEs, he said, adding that further funds allocation will come from the European Space Agency.

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