NASA awards contract to Orbital ATK to launch payloads from Wallops Island spaceport

nasaGovernor Terry McAuliffe along with U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced this week that NASA has awarded a new multiyear contract to Orbital ATK, a Virginia based company, to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station from spaceports, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) located at Wallops Island.

“This is a big win for Virginia and space exploration,” said Governor McAuliffe, “As a result of collaboration with our federal partners in NASA and our congressional delegation, NASA will continue an important contract that brings our state to the national forefront in the commercial space business, creating jobs and strengthening Virginia’s new economy.  We have a come a long way in the last year.  MARS has fully recovered from the October 2014 launch mishap, repaired damaged portions of the spaceport and the state reached an agreement with Orbital regarding repair costs and insurance coverage.  MARS is open for business and the return to space flight.”

The next launch from MARS is scheduled in late May or June.  Orbital ATK will return to flight using an upgraded Antares launch vehicle featuring new engines to send a payload to the International Space Station.  Payloads may include supplies, materials for scientific experiments, equipment and other items that are used by the astronauts in the space station.  The items support the space station, research and exploration.

“This announcement is great news for Orbital ATK, the Eastern Shore and all of Virginia.  It means creating or retaining hundreds of high-skill jobs across the Commonwealth – from Orbital’s headquarters at Dulles to the Spaceport at Wallops Island – in support of scientific discovery and the space station mission,” said Senator Warner. “This renewed commitment by NASA is also a testament to the tremendous work done by Orbital, Governor McAuliffe and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to successfully rebuild the launchpad that was damaged in October 2014.”

“This is a game-changing investment for the Commonwealth,” said Senator Kaine.  “In addition to bringing business to Virginia-headquartered Orbital ATK, this contract will strengthen the Eastern Shore’s economy and ensure a bright future for Virginia’s space launch facilities at Wallops Island. I was proud to help attract Orbital ATK to the Eastern Shore as Governor, and I’m encouraged by the recovery MARS has made to return to normal operations.  I look forward to many successful missions launched from Wallops Island in the years to come.”

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said, “We are encouraged by the contract award and the spaceport is prepared and ready for space flight.  We have reached this point as a result of collaboration between the governor, Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Scott Rigell and their work with NASA, MARS and Orbital ATK. We are ready to take off to a promising future in space flight. This is a great day for transportation in Virginia and for Virginia Space.”


Background: The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) is collocated at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia.  Virginia Space, which owns and operates MARS for the commonwealth, partners with NASA to provide access to launch facilities and services.  Virginia Space owns and operates the launch pads while NASA provides payload processing, integration facilities, range support, and telemetry services.

Orbital ATK designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation-related systems to customers around the world both as a prime contractor and as a merchant supplier. Their main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; satellites and associated components and services; composite aerospace structures; tactical missiles, subsystems and defense electronics; and precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition. They are headquartered in Dulles, Virginia and employ more than 12,000 people in 20 states across the U.S. and several international locations.  There are approximately 250 employees dedicated solely to the Antares launch vehicle and launches from Wallops.

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