PRORA was created in 1989 with the Italian Decree 184 with the objective of stimulating the development of infrastructure and skills for research in the field of aerospace, a sector considered as strategically important on the national and international levels.
PRORA was formulated in response to requirements expressed by the worlds of research and industry, and the development outlook for the aeronautics and space sectors. It addresses:
- Research and experimentation, the production and exchange of information, and the training of personnel in the aeronautics and aerospace sectors (occurring partly through Italian participation in European and international research programmes)
- The construction and maintenance of related facilities and infrastructure.
The activities implemented as part of the programme are managed by the Italian Aerospace Research Programme (CIRA), which works with other Italian and foreign research bodies in the pursuit of its mission.
The programme was initially endowed by Italian Decree 64/1986, and has also received resources from other special and budgetary legislation, as well as contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Campania Region. Subsequent legislation (Decree 46/1991) allocates additional resources, awarded on an annual basis, for the management and operating costs of the CIRA. The Italian state therefore funds PRORA via a fixed contribution for the implementation of the projects and the development of the research programmes defined on its creation, as well as an annual contribution for the management and maintenance of the CIRA: a centre which in turn contributes to (and co-finances) the programme via research and experimental contracts and services negotiated on a free-market basis. Italy’s investment in PRORA has led to the creation of three facilities which are globally unique in terms of the services they provide:
- LISA (Aerospace Structures Impact Lab), a facility specializing in impact testing to improve survival prospects in aeroplane and helicopter crashes.
- PWT (Plasma Wind Tunnel), a facility for simulating the extreme conditions experienced by spacecraft upon re-entry into the atmosphere.
- IWT (Icing Wind Tunnel), a facility which carries out research on the formation of ice on the surface of aircraft and the prevention of this phenomenon in an endeavour to improve air safety.
These valuable state-owned assets are operated and managed by CIRA: and for the unique conditions and capabilities they offer, they receive applications from all over the world for the use of their test and experiment infrastructure.
The programme operates under Italian Ministerial Decree 305/1998, which provides conditions for the management of the programme as a whole: from the legal as well as operational points of view. As noted above, the programme is managed and implemented by CIRA, which works in close cooperation with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and under the supervision of MIUR, in the form of a specially-appointed committee whose job is to monitor the activities of PRORA and formulate suggestions and proposals for its future activity.
PRORA has been significantly modified on two occasions: in 2000 (Legislative Decree 3/8/2000) and 2005 (Legislative Decree 24/3/2005), which implemented stricter guidelines for the activities of the CIRA and the Commission.