Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority

Summary

Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA)
Agency overview
Formed1995; 26 years ago (1995)
JurisdictionVirginia
Headquarters7414 Atlantic Rd, Wallops Island, VA 23337
Agency executives
  • Dale Nash, Executive Director
  • Sean Mulligan, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Director
Websitevaspace.org
virginia.gov/agencies/virginia-commercial-space-flight-authority

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA),[1] also known as Virginia Space, was created by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1995 to manage, promote, and develop commercial spaceflight activity within the Commonwealth in the name of states’ rights.[2] Virginia Space owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia and an office in Norfolk, Virginia.

History

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia created the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority in 1995 to promote the development of the commercial space flight industry, economic development, aerospace research, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education throughout the Commonwealth.[2]

In 1997, Virginia Space entered into a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA, which provided for permitted use of land on NASA Wallops Island for the MARS launch pads. Virginia Space also applied for and was granted an FAA license to launch to orbit.[3] This led to establishment of the Virginia Space Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located on the southern portion of NASA Wallops Island. MARS is approved for launch azimuths from 38° to 60°, making it an ideal location from which to launch to the International Space Station (ISS).

In 2007, NASA selected Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems) to participate in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and then selected Orbital for a follow-on Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract to build and demonstrate a new rocket, Antares, to resupply the ISS. The CRS contract authorized eight missions from 2012 to 2015 carrying approximately 20,000 kg of cargo to ISS as well as disposal of waste. These launches were to take place from the new state-of-the-art MARS Pad 0A.

On MARS Pad 0B, VCSFA made modifications and upgrades to launch the NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission to the Moon in mid-2013 on a new Orbital Sciences Minotaur V launch vehicle. Also in mid-2013, the USAF launched ORS-3 from MARS Pad 0B.

In October 2018, VCSFA entered into an agreement with New Zealand-based Rocket Lab to build a new pad for their Electron rocket. The first launch from this new pad is currently scheduled for the two-quarter of 2020.[4]

Facilities

The launch pad 0A with Antares rocket. At left is a water tower for supplying water for sound suppression.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has two active launch pads. A third is actively under construction and is projected to be finished in Fall, 2019.

The launch pad 0B with Minotaur V rocket in September 2013.

Launch pad 0A (LP-0A) was built for the Conestoga rocket, which made its only flight in 1995.[5] The launch tower was subsequently demolished in September 2008,[6] and has now been rebuilt for use by the Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Antares.[7] The pad modifications for Antares included the construction of a Horizontal Integration Facility for launcher/payload mating and a wheeled transporter/erector that will "roll out and erect the rocket on its launch pad about 24 hours prior to launch".[7]

The facility suffered significant damage during the 28 October 2014 Antares launch failure, according to NASA officials in the immediate aftermath.[8] The State of Virginia is seeking help from its two US Senators to obtain Federal funding for rebuilding the pad. Preliminary estimates for rebuilding the pad indicate the cost should be no more than US$20 million.[9] By May 2015, that estimate had been revised down to US$13 million and repairs were expected to be completed by September or October 2015 with the next planned launch in March 2016.[10] On September 30, 2015, the spaceport announced repairs on pad 0A had been completed.[11] The launch pad resumed flight operations with the successful Cygnus CRS OA-5 mission on October 17, 2016.[12]

Launch pad 0B (LP-0B) became operational in 1999,[13] and was subsequently upgraded with the construction of a mobile service tower, which was completed in 2004.[14] It remains active, and is currently used by Minotaur rockets. Additionally, Vector Space Systems announced on October 19, 2017 that their upcoming Vector-R rocket will be conducting three launches in the next two years, with an option for 5 additional launches, from a mobile launcher at pad 0B.[15]

In October 2018, Virginia Space announced the construction on MARS Launch Pad 0C (also known as LP-0C or LC-2) and an associated integration facility for use by Rocket Lab for their Electron rocket.[16] The design is largely based on the company's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand. The first launch from this new launch complex is currently scheduled for the two-quarter 2020.[17]

References

  1. ^ "Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority | Virginia.gov". www.virginia.gov. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Virginia Gov". Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  3. ^ "Commercial Space Transportation License LSO-02-007" (PDF). FAA. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  4. ^ https://www.rocketlabusa.com/news/updates/rocket-lab-opens-launch-complex-2-confirms-u-s-air-force-payload-as-first-electron-mission-from-u-s-soil/
  5. ^ Wade, Mark. "Wallops Island LA0A". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  6. ^ "Launch Tower Demolition". GMB. Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  7. ^ a b Kyle, Ed (2011-05-14). "Taurus 2". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  8. ^ Botelho, Gerg. "Unmanned NASA-contracted rocket explodes; damage is 'significant'". CNN. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  9. ^ Foust, Jeff (2014-11-21). "Virginia May Seek Federal Funds for Wallops Spaceport Repairs". Space News. Retrieved 2014-12-01.
  10. ^ Leone, Dan (May 15, 2015). "With $2 Million Left on Wallops Repair Bill, NASA and Virginia Look to Orbital ATK To Dig Deeper". Space News. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  11. ^ "Completion Of Repairs at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Launch Pad 0A". vaspace.org. September 30, 2015.
  12. ^ Graham, William (17 October 2016). "Antares 230 successfully returns with launch of OA-5 Cygnus". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Facilities". Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Archived from the original on October 16, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  14. ^ "Launch Pad 0-B" (PDF). Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 4, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  15. ^ "Vector to perform first orbital launches from Virginia - SpaceNews.com". SpaceNews.com. 2017-10-24. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  16. ^ Malik, Tariq (17 October 2018). "Rocket Lab Picks Virginia Spaceport As US Launch Site for Small Satellites". Space.com. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  17. ^ https://www.rocketlabusa.com/news/updates/rocket-lab-opens-launch-complex-2-confirms-u-s-air-force-payload-as-first-electron-mission-from-u-s-soil/