Virginia and Orbital sign agreement for rocket launches on Eastern Shore

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The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Orbital Sciences Corp. have signed an agreement on the Dulles company’s plans to launch rockets from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island.

The deal follows an earlier deal reached in 2008 to develop and build improvements on a liquid-fuel-capable launch facility to accommodate launches of Orbital’s Antares rocket, the biggest to be launched from Wallops Island.

“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,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement.

Under the agreement, Orbital will launch 10 Antares missions from MARS, including eight resupply missions to the International Space Station. Virginia will fund the completion of improvements to MARS to support Antares missions and future customers. It also specifies that the authority will own and operate all non-Antares based assets for use by additional customers.

“MARS is one of only four commercial facilities licensed in the U.S. to launch rockets into orbit,” the authority’s Executive Director Dale Nash said. “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.”

For more information, see this month’s story in Virginia Business:

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