Virginia Looks to Bolster Spaceport

A new program that will use Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) to launch 10 space missions puts Virginia in the commercial space race.

by Staff Writer / September 17, 2012

Virginia reaffirmed its commitment to the commercial space flight industry on Sept. 17 as Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the launch of a new program that will include eight resupply missions to the International Space Station, a test flight and a demonstration flight. The Virginia Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) and Orbital Sciences Corporation agreed to use the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) to create local jobs and generate income for 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."

Virginia's space industry contributes $7.6 billion to the economy and supports 28,000 jobs, according to a press release from the Gov. McDonnell's office. While the spaceport will initially be used for ISS resupply missions, “the Commonwealth will fund completion of the improvements at MARS to support the Antares missions and future customers.”

Virginia isn't the only state in the spaceport race. New Mexico looked to spaceports as a way to generate income when it first began planning Spaceport America in 2006. The spaceport is now home to entrepreneur Richard Branson's space tourism startup Virgin Galactic, which claims to have collected $50 million in deposits from customers interested in taking suborbital space trips.