Wallops Island, Virginia May Plan Major Role in Orbital Sciences Program

NASA’s decision to award $170 million in COTS funding to Orbital Sciences Corporation could prove to be a big boost to Virginia’s efforts to establish a commercial spaceport on Wallops Island.

The Dulles, Virginia-based company is leaning toward working with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the state’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to demonstrate its new Taurus II rocket by 2010. If the program is successful, it could make Virginia’s Eastern Shore a major commercial space center.

“This is a real opportunity to see that happen. It’s significant,” said Billie Reed, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority.

The Virginian-Pilot has more on the Virginia angle. Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reports that although Orbital Sciences is leaning toward launching out of its home state, it has not closed the door on flights from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. KSC officials recently announced they were open to allowing private companies to build launch sites at the facility.

Canadian Spaceport Plans Continue Despite Loss in COTS Competition

Despite coming out on the losing end of NASA’s COTS competition, PlanetSpace is going ahead with plans to create a commercial spaceport on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

The Chicago-based company has a two-pronged strategy: launching cargo and crews to the International Space Station from Florida and sending tourists on suborbital and point-to-point flights from Canada using its Silver Dart vehicle.

On Tuesday, the company learned that it lost out on a $171 million in NASA COTS funding to Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation. The COTS program is designed to encourage commercial development of crew and cargo vehicles for ISS.

“We will continue with the Silver Dart for point-to-point travel and space tourism,” PlanetSpace chairman Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria said.

For more details, see the stories here and here.