Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta

Order of Malta’s flag flies into space with “Axiom 3” mission

Rome 15 December 2023 – The productive collaboration between the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Ministry of Defence of the Italian Republic is also to be seen in the aerospace sector, with an initiative involving the Order’s flag with the eight-pointed white cross flying beyond the earth’s borders.

Yesterday, on behalf of the Order of Malta’s government, the Receiver of the Common Treasure Fabrizio Colonna entrusted the flag to Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei who, as part of the “Axiom 3” mission scheduled for January 2024, will be responsible for taking it onboard the International Space Station.

The official delivery of the flag took place yesterday morning in Washington at the Italian Embassy during the press conference to present the “Italian Space Day”, in the presence of the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry, Francesco Lollobrigida.

This is a symbolic gesture of great importance for the Order of Malta, since the flag with the octagonal cross, also known as the “flag of the Order’s works”, is the thousand-year-old banner under which today some 150,000 Order of Malta’s members, volunteers and employees in 120 countries are working to alleviate the suffering of others and to spread the message of peace and hope given by the Supreme Pontiff.

This initiative was possible thanks to the Minister of Defence, Guido Crosetto, who confirmed that his ministry shared the age-old values of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Values that have deep historical roots since, in 2023, the Order participated in the celebrations for the centenary of the Italian Air Force, involving a joint issue with Italy and the Vatican City of a stamp depicting various military aircraft. The same aircraft that, in the aftermath of the World War II, the Order of Malta received from the Italian State, using them for humanitarian missions, thus avoiding the decommissioning imposed by the surrender treaty.

At the end of the space mission – which will have a scheduled duration of 14 days – the flag will be returned to the Order of Malta as part of a special ceremony at the Magistral Palace, the seat of the Order of Malta’s government in Rome.