Colleferro Capital of Space is apparent immediately on arrival after exiting the motorway.
Entering Colleferro, on the first roundabout you see a rocket and a sculpture that represents the flame that issues from the rocket when it is launched from the earth towards space. Then you see three brick arches that represent both the ancient history of the castle and that of the twentieth century church of Santa Barbara and of the engineer Morandi.
But why a rocket?
Because Colleferro is the headquarters of one of the most advanced space technology companies in the world: Avio Spa. Avio is a publicly traded company that is fundamentally born from the merger of two large Italian companies operating in aeronautics and defense: Fiat Avio and BPD.
It can be said that if the history of BPD – Bombrini Parodi Delfino coincided largely with the history of Colleferro, which was officially born in 1935 from a vision of its founder Senator Leopold. If the BPD was Colleferro’s past, Avio is the future.
It is this enterprise that still fulfils our dream of being the protagonists of the Italian industrial scene in the high-tech sector. And we really are. In Colleferro are made parts of the Vega launcher and the Arianne, the European rocket born to put satellites into orbit.
A little information for those unfamiliar with the subject. Do you know all about the development of mobile phones? The car navigator system that guides us where we want? The driverless driving cars?
Well, all this is possible thanks to satellites that are positioned in space and that circle the earth on an orbit. There are about 7,000 satellites that have been launched since the 1950s although many are no longer operational and are referred to as “space junk”. In fact, today only 1 in 7 is currently operational.
But the “space junk” is not only made up of inactive satellites but also by hundreds of thousands of hail-sized debris and millions of chips just like the small islands in the ocean. It almost seems that the law of the universe is always repeated: as on earth so it is in heaven.
The importance of space and space companies of great challenges
The term “great challenges” is closely related to human history. The great feat of overcoming the “Colonne d’Ercole”, that is to say to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and reach the Atlantic Ocean. The great challenge of conquering the highest peak in the world. The great enterprise of living in the most inhospitable places like the base at the South Pole in Antarctica.
Fifty years ago, in 1969, man landed on the moon and accomplished the last great feat worthy of passing into history. Americans and Russians have challenged each other for years for the supremacy of space which was a metaphor for supremacy on earth.
Who is of a certain age like me remembers the dog Laika, comrade Yuri Gagarin and commander Neil Armstrong?
The next venture may be the arrival on Mars and the creation of a colony on this red planet, and already a propaganda rhetoric circulates in many newspapers. Meanwhile, China has entered the grand challenge and in 2019 landed on the dark side of the moon.
Arianne and the role of Europe in space challenges
While the US and Russia challenged each other, Europe started its Arianne programme (from the myth of the Ariadne’s thread) made up of many small steps that made it an important player in the space sector.
Europe has become the main launcher of satellites into space thanks to the Arianne program, a family of rocket launchers made by companies united in the Arianne consortium which also includes the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. A possible supremacy also thanks to the launch base that is located in Kourou in South America, near the equator, in French Guyana.
The latest addition from the Arianne launcher family is the Vega launcher.
Among the companies that are part of the Arianne consortium, is the Italian group Avio of Colleferro. It is in this very unusual town just south of Rome that the propulsion parts of the Vega, and therefore of the Arianne, are designed and realized.
“Stranissimo” (most strange) because Colleferro is a town of the twentieth century inserted in an area that has its roots even in a time before the Romans. Colleferro for its unique characteristics won the City of Culture of Lazio award in 2018.
And as the protagonist of the next millennium, the Avio company has developed and produced solid-propellant engines in the first three stages of the launcher and the propulsion module of the fourth stage.
Arianne City Community and Colleferro Space Capital in 2021
Since 1988, all the cities in which companies reside that produce components of the Arianne launcher are united in a network called CVA – the Arianne City Community.
The network includes Augsburg (Augusta), Lampoldshausen and Bremen in Germany, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Vernon, Evry-Courcouronnes, Les Mureaux, Mulhouse and Cannes for France, Charleroi and Liège for Belgium and Seville for Spain. In addition of course to the launch base in Kourou in French Guyana.
Thanks to this consortium, a network of cultural exchanges has been set up between companies, institutions and high school and university students. Delegations of students between the ages of 15 and 17, those who excelled in science, have had the opportunity to make cultural exchanges and educational trips in the various countries of the consortium participating in scientific activities.
Each year a Space Capital is elected, which is also the institutional representative in the various countries for communication and information strategies on the European role in the conquest of space and high technology.
Colleferro has been named Space Capital 2021 particularly thanks to the work of a mayor, Pierluigi Sanna, who believed in the role of culture as an identity element of this city with an industrial heart.
Meanwhile, this year, in 2019, the “Summer School” of the Arianne City Community will be held in Colleferro. A step that definitely puts Colleferro at the centre of the industrial culture of our country.