Virginia Governor Northam Announces Proposal for Rocket Lab USA to Expand U.S. Manufacturing and Launch Operations in Accomack County

Neutron booster (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Aerospace leader expected to make significant investment for construction of new Production, Assembly, Integration and Test facility, prepare for launch of new Neutron rocket

RICHMOND, Va. (Gov. Northam PR) — Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Accomack County is a finalist for a proposed expansion by Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a global leader in launch services and space systems, which expects to make a significant investment to expand its U.S. manufacturing and launch operations. If selected, the proposal would see Rocket Lab develop a new facility to support part production, assembly, integration and test operations to support the launch of its new Neutron rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Announced by Rocket Lab in March 2021, the Neutron rocket is expected to be operational in late 2024 and is designed to deliver a 17,600 pound payload to low Earth orbit, and may ultimately support human spaceflight. 

(more…)

Retired Major General Roosevelt “Ted” Mercer, Jr. Named CEO and Executive Director of Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority

Roosevelt “Ted” Mercer

RICHMOND (Gov. Ralph Northam PR) —Governor Ralph Northam today announced the selection of Major General Roosevelt “Ted” Mercer, Jr., United States Air Force (Retired) as the new Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space). General Mercer was appointed by the Virginia Space Board of Directors this morning and will assume the role on August 1, 2021 upon the retirement of Dale Nash, who has led Virginia Space since 2012.

“Major General Mercer has extensive experience in space with the United States Air Force and in industry, and his proven ability to bring partners to the table to work toward a shared goal will greatly benefit both Virginia Space and the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Under his leadership, Virginia is poised to maximize the investments we have made in our world-class spaceport and launch into the future as a leader in space exploration, research, and commerce.”

General Mercer brings decades of experience in the aerospace field and executive leadership in both the military and private sectors. In 2016, Mercer was named Director of the Interagency Planning Office for the “NextGen” program at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He later served as Director of the NextGen Collaboration and Messaging Office, where he ensured collaboration and coordination with partner agencies and other countries. Previously, he served 32 years with the United States Air Force, where his duties ranged from commanding the 30th Space Wing to commanding a space lift logistics group, developing national security policy, and serving as Deputy Director of Operations for the Air Force Space Command Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

(more…)

Northrop Grumman Set to Launch 15th Cargo Delivery Mission to ISS on Saturday

The NG-15 mission’s Cygnus spacecraft will launch aboard the company’s Antares rocket with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific research, supplies and hardware for the crew aboard the station. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

“S.S. Katherine Johnson” ready for liftoff aboard Antares rocket carrying vital supplies and equipment for the crew aboard the station

WALLOPS, Va., February 19, 2021 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is set to launch the company’s 15th resupply mission (NG-15) to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Service-2 contract. The NG-15 mission’s Cygnus spacecraft will launch aboard the company’s Antares rocket with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific research, supplies and hardware for the crew aboard the station.

(more…)

NASA Awards the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport III Follow-On Contract

Antares rocket on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Antares rocket on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority of Norfolk, Virginia for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport III (MARS III) follow-on contract.  The contractor will provide launch site services supporting missions conducted from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops, Virginia.

This is a cost-no-fee, fixed-price indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at $49 million. The effective ordering period for issuing tasks under the contract began December 8 for five years through December 7, 2019.

Services under the contract will be performed at Wallops and the contractor’s off-site facilities.











More Details on Orbital Sciences’ Lawsuit Against VCSFA

Antares lifts off with a Cygnus freighter. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)
Antares lifts off with a Cygnus freighter. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Space News has a bit more information about Orbital Sciences Corporation’s lawsuit against the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA).  Orbital purchased hardware from VCSFA after the authority ran into cost overruns and delays in building a new launch complex for the company’s Antares rocket.

Orbital bought $42 million worth of hardware, with the understanding that Virginia would eventually buy these assets back, the complaint says. The state bought back about $25.5 million worth of hardware in 2012, but balked at repurchasing a horizontal rocket transporter and associated hardware. The state argued this hardware could only be used for Antares and therefore was not a reimbursable cost. Orbital disagreed.

The Aerospace Corp., a federally funded think tank specializing in military space, was brought in to mediate and ruled  in Orbital’s favor in 2012, according to the complaint. Orbital subsequently sought payment but was told June 5 by Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton that the state would not pay. Connaughton informed Orbital of the state’s decision during a meeting of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority’s board of directors, according to the complaint.

Read the full story.











Orbital Sues Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority in Contract Dispute

A false color infrared image of the Antares launch. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
A false color infrared image of the Antares launch. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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.”

Read the full story.











Virginia to Provide $7.5 Million to Revamped Commercial Space Authority

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The revamped Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority will receive $7.5 million annually in transportation funding under a measure approved by the Legislature. The funding will be used to develop the growing Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island.

Legislators also approved other changes designed to give the Authority a stronger focus, including a smaller board of directors and the creation of a strategic plan.

(more…)











Virginia Gov. Wants to Boost MARS Spending, Restructure Space Flight Authority

Left to right: Chief of Staff Martin Kent; Christyl Johnson, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, Goddard Space Flight Center; Bill Wrobel, Director, Wallops Flight Facility; Governor Bob McDonnell; David Thompson, CEO, Orbital Sciences Corporation; and Les Kovacs, Wallops Site Manager, Orbital Sciences Corporation. (Credit: Virginia Governor's Office)

Outlining his budget proposal to state legislators, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed spending an additional $4 million on the state-run spaceport on Wallops Island and restructuring the body that oversees it.

“We should also be at the forefront of another growing part of the private sector: the space industry. We will introduce legislation to restructure the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and turn it into a true independent agency to develop the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport into the number one commercial space flight facility in the nation, and we have added $4 million in targeted new spaceport investments in the budget,” McDonnell said in prepared remarks.

(more…)











OSC Could Lose Seat on Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Board

Launch facilities on Wallops Island, Virginia

Virginia should invest in making the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island into a multi-use launch facility capable of handling missions for more than just Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (OSC) new Taurus II rocket, according to a new consulting report.

The review by KPMG includes a recommendations on further developing the commercial launch base and restructuring the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA), the state-funded organization which oversees MARS. One controversial recommendation is to strip OSC of its guaranteed seat on VCSFA’s Board of Directors, which KPMG calls a disincentive for other companies that want to use the spaceport.

(more…)











Study Recommends Measures to Boost Virginia’s Space Industry Competitiveness

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

A new analysis shows that Virginia’s diverse space industry is highly competitive with those in other states, and it makes a half dozen recommendations on how the Commonwealth can improve its standing with additional government and private spending.

“The Commonwealth’s industry diversity is a major advantage in the future growth of the industry. These space assets currently align in a way that with a number of strategic financial investments, Virginia’s already robust space presence can be tailored to foster development over the coming decades,” reads the 32-page report written by the Performance Management Group @ Virginia Commonwealth University.

(more…)











Virginia Commercial Space Measure Becomes Law

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell has signed a law that earmarks any state income tax generated by human space flight or human space flight training to be directed to the Virgin Commercial Space Flight Authority. The measure was supported by Virginia-based Space Adventures because it would direct taxes that it pays to the state toward improving facilities on Wallops Island that it might use for its activities. Space Adventures has said that it will not directly fund infrastructure improvements.











Virginia Spaceflight Funding Bill Heads to the Governor

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Jack Kennedy tells me that a measure to earmark funding for the Virginiia Commercial Space Flight Authority has passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 89-8 after being approved unanimously by the Senate. The measure now heads to Gov. Robert McDonnell for his signature.
The bill earmarks any state income tax generated by human space flight or human space flight training to be directed to the space authority. The measure was supported by Virginia-based Space Adventures because it would direct taxes that it pays to the state toward improving facilities on Wallops Island that it might use for its activities. Space Adventures has said that it will not directly fund infrastructure improvements.











Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Bill Approved by Senate Committee

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

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.

(more…)











Virginia Bill Would Direct Tax Revenues to Commercial Space Development

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Jack Kennedy informs me that there’s a move afoot in the Virginia Legislature to direct tax dollars generated by commercial human space entities in the state to support the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and development of the Wallops Island spaceport. The provision in Senate Bill 1447 reads:

Income tax paid by commercial space flight entities.

Beginning July 1, 2011, and for each fiscal year thereafter, the net revenue generated by the corporate income taxes paid by corporations that engage in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training shall be transferred to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, established pursuant to Article 2 (2.2-2201 et seq.) of Chapter 22 of Title 2.2. The Tax Commissioner shall make a written certification to the Comptroller within 15 days of the close of each calendar quarter providing an estimate of the net revenue generated by the corporate income taxes paid by the corporations that engage in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training in the calendar quarter. Not later than 30 days after the close of each quarter, the Comptroller shall transfer to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority an amount from the general fund that is equal to the estimate provided by the Tax Commissioner.

(more…)