Awesome! The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) has inked a deal with Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation under which the state of Virginia will fund completion of improvements to the Wallops Island space-launch facility and Orbital will launch 10 Antares rocket missions from it.
The rocket launches include one test flight, one demonstration flight and eight resupply missions to the International Space Station. The deal with the state updates an earlier agreement made in 2008.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) is one of only four commercial facilities licensed in the United States to launch rockets into orbit. “As the U.S. space program increases its reliance on the commercial sector, these types of partnerships will not only help keep America competitive in the space industry, but will help create much-needed jobs and economic development,” stated Governor Bob McDonnell in a press release.
Said Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority: “Our partnership with Orbital not only expands our launch capabilities, but demonstrates to the entire space community that Virginia is a leader in the commercial aerospace industry.”
Surely the importance of cis-lunar space (within the moon’s orbit) will continue to grow, driven by the increasing use of communications satellites, weather satellites, the militarization of space, the use of near-earth-orbit facilities as platforms for scientific research and space exploration, and, one day, the production of energy by means of orbiting solar-voltaic arrays. As one of the first gateways to space, MARS could become as important to Virginia’s economy one day as the maritime port of Hampton Roads or the airport at Dulles.
The McDonnell administration deserves credit for making MARS a priority and — sit down for this, ladies and gentlemen — the Obama administration deserves credit for restructuring and privatizing America’ space program.