Study assesses opportunities for the space and aerospace industry around NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility
Baltimore, MD, February 20, 2014 (Maryland DBED PR) – Governor Martin O’Malley today released the Unmanned Aerial & Space Systems & Launch Industry Feasibility Study, which identifies opportunities for investment and growth in aerospace and space on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. The study was funded by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and prepared by LJT & Associates, Columbia, Md., for the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore.
“Space is more than just ‘the final frontier’ for scientific exploration – it is a promising economic frontier for our nation, for our state, and, as this study attests, for our Lower Eastern Shore,” said Governor O’Malley. “With Maryland residents comprising nearly 50 percent of its workforce, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has had a significant impact on the economy of the Lower Shore for more than six decades. This feasibility study outlines the potential for further development of the industry around Wallops, attracting new businesses to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, creating jobs for Marylanders and strengthening the nation’s space science and exploration capabilities.”
A brief roundup of spaceport news in Texas, New Mexico and Alaska:
Brownsville, Texas — SpaceX has increased its land holdings in the Boca Chica Beach area from 12 undeveloped lots to 72 lots, the Valley Morning Star reports. The company is considering building a private launch complex on the Texas Gulf Coast from which to launch its commercial missions. SpaceX and local officials is awaiting the completion of an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Las Cruces, New Mexico — A deal to provide local schools with funding in return for residents supporting a tax increase to fund Spaceport America could unravel. A state legislator has asked that funds raised for this purpose be considered as part of a larger program that redistributes tax revenues to support schools statewide. Millions of dollars in tax revenues that currently fund Sierra and Doña Ana county public schools are at risk.
Kodiak, Alaska — The flight-challenged Kodiak Launch Complex has only one rocket launch scheduled for 2014, but it is pursuing three additional ones for future years. “Things are coming in,” said Alaska Aerospace Corp. COO Mark Greby. “We’ve got people coming in the door now. We’ll get some of them.” The state is eager to see more launches from the spaceport in order to reduce subsidies. Officials are also looking at using Kodiak to support drone flights and monitor launches from other spaceports, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.
Orbital Sciences Corporation has filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) over payments the company says it is due for supporting improvements at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, according to Courthouse News Service.
In the lawsuit, Orbital says it had to step in to save the project when VCSFA began to run out of money while making improvements needed to support the launch of the company’s Antares rockets and Cygnus freighters from the spaceport. Orbital is seeking $16.5 million plus interest.
The company said it lent the money to the authority in the form of an asset purchase in which Orbital bought various pieces of space equipment, including launch pad hydraulics and transporter vehicles; Under the terms of the agreement, Virginia was buy back the assets upon completion.
But the commonwealth failed to hold its end of the bargain, Orbital says.
“In the last six years, Orbital has invested of over $150 million in Virginia, and total Orbital headcount in the Commonwealth has increased by almost 200 new employees,” the company states. “Overall, Orbital has invested a total of $660 million in the development of its Antares rocket and related space system that will deliver cargo to the ISS on nine missions to be flown out of MARS.”
RICHMOND, VA (Office of Bob McDonnell PR) — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Alaska Governor Sean Parnell jointly announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a formal operating relationship between the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority (VCSFA) and the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC).
Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket has been cleared for its maiden flight on Wednesday evening. The launch window opens at 5 p.m. EDT/2 p.m. PDT. NASA Television will begin at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT.
The flight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia will test the company’s new rocket and also launch a mass simulator that will approximate Orbital’s Cygnus freighter, which is designed to carry cargo to the International Space Station later this year.
Orbital Sciences Corporation will roll out its Antares launch vehicle at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Saturday in advance of its maiden launch scheduled for between April 17 and 19. Meanwhile, technicians have successfully mated the first Cygnus pressurized cargo vehicle with its service module for launch on a subsequent flight.
Wallops Island, VA (MARS PR) — Mr. Sean Mulligan has been selected to fill the position of Director, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (or MARS Director) for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA). Sean will report directly to Executive Director of VCSFA, Dale Nash. He will begin in his new position Monday, November 5, 2012.
All MARS functions (whether direct or subcontractor) including the Operations, Engineering, Planning, Maintenance, Facilities, and Security, will report directly to this position. This position during MARS launch operations is the primary interface with the NASA Range and Mission Management Office for day-to-day MARS direct launch mission support functions. This position will also be the primary interface for spaceport activities for launch customers. The Director of MARS will also serve as the primary liaison with NASA Wallops Flight Facility organizations.
RICHMOND (Governor’s Office PR)– Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (“VCSFA”) and Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation (“Orbital”) have reached a new agreement to govern their working relationship and allocation of assets at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (“MARS”). Pursuant to an earlier agreement entered into in 2008, Orbital partnered with the VCSFA to develop and construct improvements to the liquid-fuel-capable launch facility at MARS in order to accommodate launches of Orbital’s Antares™ rocket. These improvements are expected to be completed later this month.
A major leadership transition is occurring as Virginia begins to ramp up spending on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport:
The man leading Virginia’s charge into space is eyeing retirement, a management change that comes as the state prepares to invest millions of dollars to create the nation’s premiere spaceport.
Billie M. Reed has overseen nearly all aspects of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport since Virginia lawmakers decided to build the facility 17 years ago. Last month, he notified the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority board of directors that he plans to step down as its executive director.
“It’s hard to say when. But let’s face it, I’m well past retirement,” said Reed, who is in his late 60s…
J. Jack Kennedy, a former state lawmaker who serves on the board, said in an email that he anticipates Reed will retire in late 2012. He expects the board will retain Reed as a consultant….
Kennedy, who credits Reed for the spaceport’s development, called him the “father of modern commercial space in Virginia.” His pending departure comes as the authority readies for significant growth.
Space News reports that Orbital’s plan to launch its first Antares rocket by early March has gone by the boards:
A hold-down test of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, a prerequisite for the launch vehicle’s maiden flight, likely will not be completed before April because of ongoing tests and certification work on the vehicle’s launch pad at Wallops Island, Va., a launch official said.
Antares, formerly known as Taurus 2, is the rocket Orbital will use to launch the cargo-carrying Cygnus tug to the international space station under its $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. Orbital is supposed to begin flights under that contract this year, but it must first complete two Antares demonstration flights, which themselves cannot proceed until the hold-down test is completed. Orbital’s official launch schedule has the hold-down test slated to occur before the end of March.
But Reed said that the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority, the state entity that manages operations at the spaceport from which Orbital will launch, is still completing certification of individual systems. These include more than 130 pressurized vessels needed to support the launch of the liquid-fueled Antares. The authority is also working on what Reed called “integrated system performance and functional testing,” the purpose of which is to ensure that the various launch support systems and software at Orbital’s pad are working harmoniously.
GOV. McDONNEL PR – RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell today released a study on the economic competitiveness of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA). The study, commissioned in response to the 2011 Virginia Appropriation Act, reviewed the governance, organization and competitive landscape for the VCSFA in order to identify the necessary steps to make the Mid Atlantic Spaceport (MARS), located on Wallops Island, the best commercial space launch facility in the country. The study was conducted by KPMG Corporate Finance.
“A proposal by NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to support commercial launches of human spaceflight missions from Virginia’s Eastern Shore poses a ‘direct threat’ to the economy and workforce of Florida,” roared late-September articles in Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel, announcing an assault on the ambition of making Virginia’s commercial spaceport more capable.
During this past summer, NASA sought public input on an environmental study relating to land-use changes at the Wallops Flight Facility in Accomack County. The environmental impact study seeks to address the possibility of human space flight requirements at the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.
Virginians are pushing back against efforts by Florida to maintain its monopoly on human spaceflight missions. Jack Kennedy, a prominent backer of commercial space in Virginia, sent the following email to supporters on Saturday:
“Space Florida is getting really aggressive and negative to the possibility of human commercial space launch from Wallops Island, Virginia.
“I strongly urge you to communicate with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Congressman Frank Wolf and Senator Mark Warner, in particular. ASK that they call upon Boeing to openly pledge to launch the Atlas-V from Virginia under the NASA Commercial Crew program by 2015.
“Your e-Mail, letter, and/or phone call to these three Congressional offices may go a long way to make human space flight from Virginia a reality (especially in the wake of the Florida push back against Virginia’s spaceport).
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that will direct revenues generated by commercial spaceflight activities within the state toward expanding the Wallops Island spaceport. The measure currently impacts only one firm, Space Adventures.
“It is my goal to make Wallops Island the best spaceport in America and this legislation will direct revenue generated by commercial spaceflight to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority encouraging significant growth of the aerospace industry in the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a statement.
PRESS RELEASE — Tourism officials from Virginia Beach to southern Delaware will gather April 5 to discuss utilizing upcoming launches from NASAâ€™s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Virginiaâ€™s Eastern Shore to attract visitors to the mid-Atlantic region.
During the luncheon meeting, the nearly 50 officials will learn about the upcoming Department of Defense ORS-1 satellite launch from MARS at WFF, on a Minotaur 1 rocket this spring or summer and will discuss how to use this and other launches this summer as an additional attraction to visitors in the region.
The group has been meeting for nearly two years to discuss the marketing potential of â€œAmericaâ€™s First Space Coastâ€ with traditional marketing themes they have used in the past.Â The area is widely known for its beaches and natural attractions. The group wants to take advantage of the rocket launches from Wallops as another activity that would attract visitors to the area.