Col. Walter Villadei

Col. Walter Villadei

Cosmonaut and Professional Astronaut
Italian Air Force

Col. Villadei joined Italian Air Force (ItAF) in 1993, starting his carries as cadet of the Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli. He carried out his studies in Aeronautical Engineering with a specialization in space (first ItAF officer to attend such course). In February 1999, he was posted as First Lieutenant to the 46th Air Brigade in Pisa and assigned as a Technical Officer on multiple fleets (G-222 and C-130J), participating in several operational activities abroad (United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia, International Security Assistance Force, Enduring Freedom, Ancient Babylon, Kosovo, ex_Yugoslavia), along with several training missions in Europe and in the U.S.. Transferred to the Air Staff in October 2003, he attended an extensive advanced further specialization till May 2005, through a 2nd level Master at the University of Rome La Sapienza followed by a period of six months at the European Space Agency and a further initial studies on airborne launchers in collaboration with the national industry. In 2006 he graduated cum Laude in Astronautical Engineering at the School of Aerospace Engineering, founded by Crocco and directed for many years by Luigi Broglio. Since 2009 he has held various positions in ItAF dealing with military and dual space programs, both at the Aeronautical Space Policy Office and at the General Office for Space, where he served until mid-March 2022 as Head of the “Space Policy and Operations Office”. From March 14, 2022 he assumed the position of ItAF Representative in the US for space access activities and the Commercial Spaceflight at Axiom Space.

Among the other activities in his career: from 2018 to 2022, he was national representative at the NATO Science and Technology Office (STO) for Collaborative Space Domain activities; from 2017 to 2021, he was the National Representative at the Steering Committee of the EU-SST Consortium and the IT-MOD Representative within the National Coordination Committee (OCIS) for the governance of the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) capability development program; from 2014 to 2021, he was the National Delegate to the European Commission, appointed by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, for the European Committee relating to the Space Surveillance and Tracking Support Framework. In addition, in the period 2014-2018 he was a Member of the Scientific Technical Committee of the Italian Space Agency; in the period 2014-2018 he was a Member of the Coordination Committee pursuant to the Framework Agreement between ITAF and the University of Rome Tor Vergata “for collaboration in the field of advanced training, applied research and experimentation in the aerospace sector and human space flight “. He has taken part and still participates in several national working groups in the space sector.

Col. Walter Villadei is the first Italian to have attended a qualification training as Cosmonaut (2011-12), at the prestigious Y. Gagarin State Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, where he was rewarded with his cosmonauts wings and he’s been qualified as on-board engineer/co-pilot of Soyuz-MS, in the advanced use of systems for extra-vehicular activities (Orlan systems) and the on-board systems of the Russian segment of the International Space Station (2014-2015 and 2018-2019). Since September 2021, within an agreement between Italian Air Force and Axiom Space, Col. Villadei commenced his training at NASA as “professional astronaut” and then at mid-2022 he has assigned as Ax2 mission back-up pilot.

On June 29, 2023 Col. Villadei served as VIRTUTE 1 Commander flying suborbital on the Virgin Galactic spaceship from Spaceport America in New Mexico, performing multiple experiments provided by ItAF and the National Research Center.

From January 18 through February 9, 2024 Col. Villadei served as Axiom-3 mission pilot, spending 21 days in space and 18 days aboard the ISS, performing experiments for ItAF, the Italian Space Agency and Italian industries along with some Axiom experiments.

Col. Villadei has taught in various universities; produced quite a few articles and promoted several initiatives for the benefit of young people and students to bring them closer to space. He holds diving certificates (various specialties), VDS piloting license and he is a martial arts instructor

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Game Changers Track

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

9:00 am - 5:00 pm