Virginia to Provide $7.5 Million to Revamped Commercial Space Authority

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The revamped Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority will receive $7.5 million annually in transportation funding under a measure approved by the Legislature. The funding will be used to develop the growing Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island.

Legislators also approved other changes designed to give the Authority a stronger focus, including a smaller board of directors and the creation of a strategic plan.

The agreement was worked out by a six-member committee of House and Senate members. The House had wanted to spend $15 million on the Authority while the Senate measure had included no operating funding.

Under the measure, the Authority’s Board of Directors will have nine members instead of 13, including the Virginia secretary of Transportation and the director of the Department of Aviation (or their designated representatives). The remaining seven members will be appointed by the governor according to the following requirements: 

one member representing the business community; one member representing the financial industry; one member representing the marketing industry; one member representing the legal industry; one member representing the research and development industry; and two at-large members.

The existing board includes the president of the Center for Innovative Technology, the president of Old Dominion University, the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, and the Secretary of Technology. None of these officials are guaranteed seats on the new board.

Several study reports have faulted the 13-member board as being too large, unwieldy, and lacking in relevant experience. The board has experienced difficulty in assembling quorums for some meetings.

Legislators also directed the Authority to create an Advisory Committee to provide input on its work.

The Advisory Committee shall consist of six members as follows: two members representing the commercial aerospace industry; two members representing the higher education community; the county administrator from the County of Accomack; and the county executive from the County of Northampton.

Lawmakers also required the Authority to submit a strategic plan to the governor and General Assembly no later than Dec. 1, 2012. The plan will be updated every four years.