Governor McAuliffe announces agreement to continue operation of the Virginia Commercial Space Authority
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced this week an agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth of Virginia and Orbital ATK regarding repair costs and insurance coverage following the October 2014 launch mishap that damaged portions of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). The agreement provides funding to complete remaining repairs to the pad as well as property insurance for future launches.
The Governor also announced a separate agreement with NASA for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to build a 3,000-foot Unmanned Aircraft Systems runway at Wallops Island. The runway represents a major business opportunity for the Commonwealth’s unmanned aircraft systems industry. Construction will begin this fall, with the first flight operations in 2016.
Speaking at an event at Old Dominion University, where the Virginia Space Authority is headquartered, the Governor reinforced his commitment to the Commonwealth’s Spaceport, which is one of only four sites licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch rockets into orbit.
“The aerospace industry is a central part of my Administration’s efforts to create high-tech jobs and build a new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This agreement will strengthen the MARS facility and better protect taxpayers in the future. I am committed to supporting this industry and MARS, and look forward to a return to flight at this national asset.”
Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne commented, “The Governor was clear in his direction following the October 2014 launch mishap that the Virginia Space Authority was going to change the way it conducted business and become a sustainable entity. The new agreement protects the Commonwealth’s assets at MARS against damage while at the same time providing a state-of-the-art launch facility for our customer, Orbital ATK, at a highly competitive price.”
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport continues to make progress on pad reconstruction and repair efforts, targeting a fall 2015 completion date. The Governor also credited Maryland U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and members of the Virginia congressional delegation, especially U.S. Senator Mark Warner, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, for their bipartisan and regional efforts to secure funding in the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill to support recovery efforts.
“I am encouraged with the agreement reached and look forward to seeing future launches,” said Senator Lynwood Lewis. “The Spaceport business is essential to the region’s economy, and will continue to grow and diversify economic opportunities and create jobs and careers.”
“The cost of repairs to Pad 0A are expected to be approximately $15 million at completion, split equally between Virginia Space, Orbital ATK and NASA, and rebuild efforts are on schedule as we continue to work with our partners to return the Spaceport to operational status,” said Virginia Space Authority Executive Director Dale Nash.
Orbital ATK has announced plans to return Antares to flight at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport with a “hot fire” test anticipated for late 2015 and the maiden voyage of the upgraded Antares in 2016.