This site uses cookies to provide a better experience. Continuing navigation accept the use of cookies by us OK




1 0

The Ambassador of Italy Armando Varricchio meets the Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli at the Embassy of Italy in Washington


The collaboration between Italy and the United States in the space sector began in 1962, when, thanks to an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the first Italian satellite, the San Marco, was launched. Italy thus became the third country in the world to launch an artificial satellite in Earth’s orbit.

The first joint mission of NASA - ASI (Italian Space Agency), LAGEOS-2, dates back to 1992, the same year when the Tethered mission was launched to study the ionosphere. The Cassini-Huygens interplanetary mission, which ended in 2017, was instead launched in 1997 to observe Saturn and its moons, including Titan. In addition to these mission, there have been many Italian scientific experiments in NASA’s missions: SWIFT (2004), SHARAD (2005), DAWN (2007), FERMI / GLAST (2008), JUNO (2011) and NuSTAR (2012).

Several agreements underpin Italy-US cooperation in space, including:

  • Framework Agreement for the Peaceful Cooperation in Space Signed in 2013 between Italy and the United States, establishing a new scenario of bilateral relations not only with NASA, but also with other US administrations involved in space activities, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) and the US Geological Survey (USGS).
  • Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) on the Commercial Space Transportation
    Signed in 2014 between Italy’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and renewed in 2016, with extension to ASI.
  • Agreement between ASI and NASA on the exchange of COSMO-SkyMed data (Constellation of small satellites for the Mediterranean basin observation). Signed in 2015, it regulates the processing and analysis of data on Earth Observation.
  • Extension of the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between ASI and NASA for the analysis of data related to the Cassini - Huygens mission, February 2018.

The cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station, the human outpost in space, is the result of cooperation between the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Union. ASI and NASA have established a partnership on the ISS, with a memorandum signed in 1997. In a low circular orbit about 400 km from the earth's surface, the crews conduct research and natural and medical sciences experiments in weightlessness. This research is necessary to support future explorations and it has a return in the real economy in terms of applications and services.

Built since 1998 and large as a football field, the ISS will be operational until 2024, with the possibility of further extensions. The two main contributions of the European Union to the project are the 'Columbus' laboratory and the 'Automated Transfer Vehicle', in which also Italian industries have contributed.

About 50% of the habitable volume of the space station was produced in Italy: the three "Multipurpose Logistics Modules" in cooperation with NASA, while the "Dome" and the "Nodes 2 and 3" in collaboration with ESA. The Dome, the largest window ever made for the space, was mainly developed and assembled in Italy. From there, astronauts can take wonderful photos of our planet.

Since its deployment, 70 Italian scientific experiments took place inside the ISS, in collaboration with Italian research institutes and institutions.

Thanks to the Italian cooperation on the Space Station, many Italian astronauts had the opportunity to go there on mission: Franco Malerba (1992), Maurizio Cheli (1996), Umberto Guidoni (1996 and 2001), Paolo Nespoli (2007 and 2011, 2017), Roberto Vittori (2003, 2005 and 2011), Luca Parmitano (2013), and Samantha Cristoforetti (2014). Franco Malerba has also been the first European astronaut to set foot on the station.

Related links:

Italian Space Agency - 

European Space Agency- 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration - 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Sezione Diplomazia Scientifica e Addetti Spaziali