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.
Jack Kennedy reports that a bill that direct tax revenues from Virginia companies engaged in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has been reported out of the Senate Finance Committee.
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Holly Grove Vineyards are pleased to announceÂ â€˜Genesisâ€™, Â a new Virginia wine, with a very unique wine Â label celebrating the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and Virginiaâ€™s return to space.Â Billie Reed, the Space Authorityâ€™s Executive Director will give â€˜Genesisâ€™ to his NASA hosts when he attends the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in Florida, scheduled for November 1, 2010.
Space technology leadership rests with Va. delegation by Jack Kennedy TriCities.com
Russia, China and India either have, or will have, vibrant human space launch capabilities by before the close of the next decade. The Russians and the Chinese will have multiple human to orbit capable space launch facilities by mid-decade now under construction.
If America is to continue as a leader is space technology, scientific research, and exploration, NASA needs a new and inspiring leadership role that abdicates the role of monopoly access provider to low earth orbit. NASA needs a strong commercial space launch sector regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The Senate measure provides it while the House measure simply does not.
Virginia Business has an interesting story on the commercial launch potential of Wallops Island in Virginia, which includes possible human launches aboard Atlas V by Bigelow Aerospace:
Over the next five years, the company will make eight launches of the Taurus II from Wallops, as part of a $1.9 billion contract Orbital has with NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
The Orbital deal is nice, and there are even bigger prizes out there. The decades-long effort to let the private sector handle much of what NASA has traditionally done is gaining momentum. The Obama administration gave the idea a big push this year in its NASA budget proposal, which calls for outsourcing to private companies the delivery of supplies â€” and maybe some day crew members â€” to the space station.
Here’s an interesting quote from Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski which was included in a press release issuedÂ after Gov. Martin O’Malley toured the Wallops Flight Facility on Monday.
â€œWallops Island Flight Facility is home to American innovation. I fought to keep jobs at the Wallops Flight Facility and I will continue to fight to create the jobs of the future. Today we can see our investment in innovation is paying off, as Wallops becomes the Southwest Airlines of space: a lower cost, safer way to launch.â€
Massive fuel tank arrives at Wallops DelmarvaNow.com
A 162-foot-long, 56-wheeled vehicle transporting the largest tank of the fuel farm needed to launch Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus II rocket arrived Monday at Wallops Island after a three-month journey from Mexico.
WMDT-47 News has an interesting story the shows the importance of Wallops Island in Virginia to the Maryland economy:
On Monday, Governor Martin O’Malley will tour the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, one of the oldest launch sites in the world. NASA and the other organizations at Wallops, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) employ approximately 1,800 civilian positions, including government and contractor jobs, 700 of which are held by Marylanders…