Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport News Archives
Sean Mulligan Selected as Director, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) - November 02, 2012
Orbital Begins Antares Rocket Operations at Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport - October 01, 2012
(Dulles, VA 1 October 2012) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that has it has commenced Antares launch vehicle operations at the liquid-fuel launch complex at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). Following a four-year design, development, construction, test and inspection process, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA), which oversees MARS, has authorized Orbital to begin on-pad operations leading up to flight demonstrations of its Antares medium-class launch vehicle and Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft, the vehicles Orbital will use to fulfill a $1.9 billion NASA contract to deliver essential cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The MARS launch complex is located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia and is owned and operated by MARS, under the auspices of the VCSFA, which receives its funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“MARS has completed construction and testing operations on its launch complex at Wallops Island, the first all-new large-scale liquid-fuel launch site to be built in the U.S. in decades,” said David W. Thompson, Orbital’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Accordingly, our pad operations are commencing immediately in preparation for an important series of ground and flight tests of our Antares medium-class launch vehicle over the next few months. In fact, earlier today, an Antares first stage test article was transported to the pad from its final assembly building about a mile away, marking the beginning of full pad operations.”
Over the next several months, the company plans to complete three major program milestones, including an on-pad hot-fire test of the Antares first stage, the maiden flight of a fully operational Antares rocket, and a demonstration mission to the ISS of Orbital’s cargo delivery system, prior to commencing operational cargo delivery missions under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) agreement in 2013. This system, developed under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) joint research and development agreement with NASA, is made up of an Antares rocket, a Cygnus advanced maneuvering cargo logistics spacecraft, and ground-based mission operations command and control facilities.
The first of the three milestones, the Antares hot-fire test operation, will demonstrate the readiness of the rocket’s first stage and launch pad fueling systems to support the upcoming flights. The hot-fire test involves firing Antares’ dual AJ26 rocket engines that will generate a combined total thrust of 680,000 lbs. for approximately 30 seconds while the first stage is held down on the pad. The hot-fire operation is expected to be conducted in four to five weeks following integration and check-out of the Antares first stage test unit with the launch complex’s fueling systems.
The hot-fire test will be followed about one month later by the maiden flight of the Antares rocket, which will carry a Cygnus mass simulator payload that will be heavily instrumented to gather data on the launch environment aboard Antares. In addition, four small “pico satellites” will be deployed from two dispensers that will be integrated with the mass simulator.
The last of the three COTS test milestones will be the COTS demonstration mission to the ISS. For this mission, a fully operational Cygnus spacecraft will be launched into orbit by Antares and, following an extensive series of in-orbit tests, will autonomously rendezvous and berth with the ISS. The first Cygnus will deliver approximately 550 kg of cargo upon its arrival and will remove about 1,000 kg of disposal cargo upon its departure from the orbiting laboratory.
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories.
More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.com
Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Orbital Sciences Corporation Reach New Agreement on Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport - September 17, 2012
– Memorandum of Understanding Governs Relationship Between VCSFA and Orbital for Cargo Delivery Missions to the International Space Station –
RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority ("VCSFA") and Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation ("Orbital") have reached a new agreement to govern their working relationship and allocation of assets at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport ("MARS"). Pursuant to an earlier agreement entered into in 2008, Orbital partnered with the VCSFA to develop and construct improvements to the liquid-fuel-capable launch facility at MARS in order to accommodate launches of Orbital's Antares™ rocket. These improvements are expected to be completed later this month.
Speaking about today's announcement, Governor McDonnell said "The Commonwealth's partnership with Orbital will kick off a new era of commercial aerospace activity throughout the Commonwealth. 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. A recent economic analysis of Virginia's space industry noted that it contributes $7.6 billion in economic output and supports 28,110 jobs. VCSFA's successful completion of the MARS spaceport development project and the impending commencement of on-pad operations, positions Virginia - with its business-friendly climate, tremendous institutions of higher education and diverse workforce - for continued growth in this vibrant high-tech market."
Among the terms of the Second Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"), Orbital and the VCSFA agree:
- Orbital will launch 10 Antares missions from MARS, including one test flight, one demonstration flight, and eight resupply missions to the International Space Station
- The Commonwealth will fund completion of the improvements at MARS to support the Antares missions and future customers
- The VCFSA will own and operate all non-Antares-specific assets that can be used by future additional customers
The second MOU also addresses use of MARS by other customers during the term of Orbital's resupply missions.
"This new agreement with the VCSFA demonstrates the type of partnership that will be critical to the future success of the commercial aerospace industry in the United States," said David W. Thompson, Orbital's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "As a Virginia-headquartered company, Orbital greatly appreciates Governor McDonnell's efforts to advance this critical project, and we look forward to continuing to work with his administration and the VCSFA as we expand our commercial space activities in Virginia."
"MARS is one of only four commercial facilities licensed in the U.S. to launch rockets into orbit," said VCSFA Executive Director Dale Nash. "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. The VCSFA looks forward to continuing to work with Orbital to support their critical operations at MARS and continue to grow the commercial aerospace industry in Virginia."
A Conversation with Billie Reed - July 06, 2012
Billie M. Reed has had a long run with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and after leaving his current role, he'll still have ties with the organization.
Executive director of the authority since it was established in 1995, Reed plans to step into a consultant role at the end of July when Dale K. Nash, CEO of Alaska Aerospace, takes over.
Late last year, Gov. Bob McDonnell said space-related ventures contribute $7.6 billion in annual direct economic output, supporting more than 28,000 jobs. The authority receives $1.5 million annually in state funds.
To what capacity do you plan to be involved in the authority upon Dale Nash's arrival?
The board hasn't really established a step down or transition date for me. There will be a short transition period and then I will step into a consultant role.
I'm not totally retiring; the board does not want me to. They have encouraged me to sign a long-term consultancy agreement. We are negotiating it right now, but it should be a one- to two-year term. And it's mutual, something we both want to do.
During this leadership transition period, what industry issues are in the forefront for the authority?
We are uniquely positioned right now. We have just developed a new launch pad facility for mid- to heavy-class launch vehicles. We began designing it in mid-2008, and we began physical construction in February of 2010. It's going through testing right now, and it's on the brink of being ready to go in a couple of weeks. [The facility will be the second launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.]
We are the only commercially licensed spaceport in the country that can launch that class of vehicle. It opens up an entirely new market to us. It's an exciting time.
The authority changed hands last year, from being overseen by the secretary of commerce and trade's office to the secretary of transportation's office. Did this fall in line with the published recommendations for the authority?
It indeed was part of the recommendations that came out of the KPMG studies last year. We provide facilities to allow commercial customers to come in and do their jobs. The authority fits very well in a transportation mode. We are a true transportation provider so it made a lot of sense.
What is the status on where the authority's office will be? Will it remain on Old Dominion University's campus?
It's really going to be a decision made by the board and the new executive director. We are housed in Innovation Research Park I, which is a public-private building - so we pay our way.
I'm not sure where the authority's office is going to go, but my input on it is that Norfolk is really a central location. It's close to Richmond and the spaceport. So, I don't know. It's going to be a business decision and an access decision, based on how people come and go for business.
Will the authority have a completely new staff?
No. But we will be hiring additional staff, and we've already begun that process. For years we have been very small, and now we have this new facility and a nice manifest of launches in the next few years and we have to address that.
This new launch pad facility at MARS is going to take a sizable staff to run.
In the summer of 2013, we are launching a satellite to the moon. That's a mission for NASA at the recently upgraded facility, which was the first launch pad we built. The satellite will orbit the moon and gather data for, hopefully, people to go back to the moon one day. It will be the first time for Virginia, and that's a cool thing.
How can the state accomplish its goal to create more skilled jobs in the industry?
Job creation is certainly one of the most important things in the commonwealth - for this administration and in the past. This new launch pad, and all the facilities that support it, have created new jobs.
The new pad and support facilities are a $140 million investment by federal, state and private company sources. The construction that started in 2010 provided up to 1,000 construction-related jobs.
There's also the new staff, which is necessary to keep things [operating]. So that's a more permanent example of gaining highly skilled jobs.
Are you still a faculty member at ODU? What's next for you in that regard?
Yes, I am technically. I have an appointment as an assistant professor at the college of engineering and technology. I will likely retire from that role, however, sometime before the end of this year.
Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Announces Selection of New Executive Director - June 27, 2012
Wallops Island -- The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) Board of Directors today announced the selection of Dale K. Nash to serve as the Authority's new Executive Director beginning July 31, 2012. Mr. Nash will replace Dr. Billie Reed, who has served as Executive Director since the VCSFA was established in July 1995. Speaking about today's announcement, Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said "We are very excited to have Dale join the VCSFA team. His years of experience in the aerospace industry will be a tremendous boost to the Authority as it works to become the number one commercial space port in the U.S. With his leadership, the Commonwealth can seize upon the tremendous advantages we have in the aerospace industry to grow the VCSFA and create much needed economic development and jobs."
Mr. Nash has spent over 29 years in the aerospace industry, most recently serving as Chief Executive Officer of Alaska Aerospace. In this position, he managed six successful launches, certification of the Range Safety and Telemetry System, an expansion and modernization of the Kodiak Launch Complex, development of rapid launch enabling capabilities, and engineering planning for construction of a new medium-lift launch pad and processing facility. Prior to joining Alaska Aerospace, Mr. Nash spent 14 years working on NASA's Space Shuttle/Human Space Flight programs with a stint as Director of Launch Operations at the Kennedy Space Center. He has also served as Vice President and General Manager of Thiokol's Solid Rocket Booster Operations and Program Manager of the Orion program for United Space Alliance/Lockheed. Throughout his career, Mr. Nash has been directly involved in over 60 space shuttle flights. This past General Assembly Session, Governor McDonnell introduced legislation, set to take effect on July 1, to reform the governance and organizational structure of the VCSFA and provide the Authority with adequate funding to carry out its mission. These changes are designed to help the VCSFA grow into a true state authority with the resources necessary to become a national leader in the commercial aerospace field and to help boost the Commonwealth's economic development and job creation efforts.
"The VCSFA has a long history of success in the commercial aerospace industry," said VCSFA Board of Directors Chairman Vincent Boles. "With much of the U.S.'s future space activity reliant on the commercial sector, Mr. Nash's experience, combined with the changes enacted by the General Assembly, presents a unique opportunity for the VCSFA to become a major player in this growing field."
Competitive Analysis of Virginia's Space Flight Industry Released - February 15, 2012
– Virginia's Spaceport One of Four in U.S. to Launch Vehicles into Orbit –
RICHMOND - A prime location for orbital launches and a trajectory path over the Atlantic Ocean position the Commonwealth's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for tremendous growth over the next few years. Governor Bob McDonnell outlined the study today called, Competitive Analysis of Virginia's Space Industry, at the 15th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference held in Washington, D.C. The study details the Commonwealth's space landscape and gives recommendations and strategies to move the program forward.
"Virginia is poised to become a leader in commercial space launch operations and our efforts will be enhanced by the implementation of these recommendations," said Governor McDonnell. "As one of only four spaceports in the U.S. licensed to launch vehicles into orbit, we can only gain by promoting a robust space industry in the Commonwealth."
The study analyzed Virginia's space assets related to commercial, civil, national security and research capabilities. Key points among the results include:
- Virginia is one of only four FAA-licensed spaceports in the nation licensed to launch vehicles into orbit.
- The launch trajectory from the site is primarily over ocean and avoids populated areas, whereas competitors' trajectories cross over population-dense locations. This is a financial advantage to private companies because costs are much lower for a launch with a low-risk trajectory.
- The Wallops Island location provides optimal access to the orbit used by the International Space Station, creating multiple opportunities for private company launches.
- Virginia ranks first in the nation in the number of scientists and engineers as a percentage of the total workforce.
- The National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO) headquartered in Chantilly, makes Virginia the primary state for intelligence-related space funding and operations.
Recommendations from the analysis include funding improvements to infrastructure at the Wallops Island facilities, developing a space research center in the Hampton Roads area, and maximizing existing manufacturing resources in the region to support future growth.
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island and provides launch facilities for public- and private-sector customers utilizing the infrastructure and facilities of MARS and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Range for launch operations.
The full report may be viewed at: http://www.transportation.virginia.gov/