Antares rocket (Photo : NASA)
Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that the Virginia Commonwealth Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation have reached a new level of agreement in terms of their allocation of assets as well as working relationship at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS).
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As part of an agreement inked in 2008, Orbital and the VCSFA partnered so that Orbital could develop improvements to the liquid-fuel-capable launch facility at MARS to assist in launches of Orbital's Antares rocket.
"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," David W. Thompson, Chairman & CEO of Orbital said in a statement. "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."
The improvements to the MARS facility are slated for completion later this month. Internally funded by Orbital, the Antares rocket is under development with a total of ten missions scheduled between 2012 and 2015.
Among the terms of the new agreement announced Monday, Orbital and the VCSFA have come to the following agreements: Orbital will launch ten Antares missions from MARS, including one test flight, one demonstration flight and eight resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). In order to support the Antares missions and bring in potential future customers, the Commonwealth will bankroll the improvements at MARS. The VCFSA will own and operate non-Antares-specific assets that can be used by future customers.
A recent analysis of the economic value of Virginia's space industry shows that the industry contributes $7.6 billion in "economic output" and supports 28,110 jobs. The VCSFA says its completion of the MARS spaceport development project positions the state of Virginia for extensive growth in this new market.
"The Commonwealth's partnership with Orbital will kick off a new era of commercial aerospace activity throughout the Commonwealth," Governor McDonnell said in a statement. "As the U.S. space program increases its reliance on the commercial sector, it will not only keep America competitive in the space industry, but will help create much-needed jobs and economic development."