Italian aerospace firm Avio signs EU-funded contracts worth 285 mln euros

MILAN, March 13 (Reuters) - Italian aerospace group Avio (AVI.MI) said on Monday it had signed two European Union-funded contracts worth 285 million euros ($303.70 million) overall for new space transportation technologies.

"The goal is to leverage the skills developed in Italy since the early 2000s through the Vega, Vega C, and Vega E programs for the development of new-generation propulsion technologies and launch system architectures," Avio said in a statement.

The Rome-based firm is the prime contractor for European launcher Vega and one of the partners in launch firm Arianespace, a company that is majority-owned by a joint venture of Airbus (AIR.PA) and Safran (SAF.PA).

Last December, an Arianespace satellite launch failed around two minutes after take-off and, earlier this month, an investigation said the problem had been caused by a faulty carbon component purchased by Avio from a supplier in Ukraine.

Monday's contracts, funded by Italy's post-COVID recovery fund, a flagship EU programme, were signed in Rome in the presence of Industry Minister Adolfo Urso and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Space Transportation Systems director.

ESA will act as the contracting authority for the two orders, while Avio will be the main contractor, with the support of an Italian industrial supply chain, as well as Italian research centres and universities.

The first contract will focus on the development by 2026 of a flight demonstrator of new technologies and projects for a launcher with low environmental impact engines, while the second will be dedicated to developing a low environmental impact high-thrust engine to arrive at ground qualification by 2026.

"The goal of the two projects is to prepare the ground for future-generation space transportation systems based on liquid propulsion with reduced environmental impact (potentially reusable)," Avio Chief Executive Officer Giulio Ranzo said.

($1 = 0.9384 euros)

Reporting by Federico Maccioni; editing by Alvise Armellini and Paul Simao

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