Calibration of the ATHENA telescope is a critical aspect of the project and raises significant difficulties due to the unprecedented size, mass and focal length of the mirror assembly. The VERT-X project, financed by ESA and started in January 2019 by a Consortium led by INAF and which includes EIE, Media Lario Technologies, GPAP, and BCV Progetti, aims to design an innovative calibration facility. In the VERT-X design the parallel beam, needed for calibration, is produced placing a source in the focus of an X-ray collimator. This system is mounted on a raster-scan mechanism which covers the entire ATHENA optics. The compactness of the VERT-X design allows a vertical geometry for the ATHENA calibration facility, with several potential benefits with respect to the long horizontal tube calibration facilities.