Guest Opinion: Space Florida’s Actions “Petulent” and “Ethically Lacking”

Jack Kennedy

By Jack Kennedy

“A proposal by NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to support commercial launches of human spaceflight missions from Virginia’s Eastern Shore poses a ‘direct threat’ to the economy and workforce of Florida,” roared late-September articles in Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel, announcing an assault on the ambition of making Virginia’s commercial spaceport more capable.

During this past summer, NASA sought public input on an environmental study relating to land-use changes at the Wallops Flight Facility in Accomack County. The environmental impact study seeks to address the possibility of human space flight requirements at the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.


FAA Grants Fund Improvements at Three Spaceports

The FAA has awarded grants totaling nearly $500,000 to improve spaceports in Virginia, California and New Mexico:

  • $249,378 to the New Mexico Space Port Authority’s Spaceport America to construct a mobile structure to prepare larger rockets before launch;
  • $125,000 to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to improve security and remote monitoring;
  • $125,000 to the East Kern Airport District’s Mojave Air and Space Port in California for a Supplemental Environmental Assessment.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the “funding will help pay for a roll-back vehicle integration building to prepare space vehicles for launch. The facility will accommodate the larger vehicles that are under development and also be on a rail system that can be rolled back from the vehicle to help maintain dimensional stability.”

The grants were made under an FAA program that funds infrastructure improvements at the nation’s licensed spaceports.

Virginia Bill Would Direct Tax Revenues to Commercial Space Development

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

Jack Kennedy informs me that there’s a move afoot in the Virginia Legislature to direct tax dollars generated by commercial human space entities in the state to support the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and development of the Wallops Island spaceport. The provision in Senate Bill 1447 reads:

Income tax paid by commercial space flight entities.

Beginning July 1, 2011, and for each fiscal year thereafter, the net revenue generated by the corporate income taxes paid by corporations that engage in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training shall be transferred to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, established pursuant to Article 2 (2.2-2201 et seq.) of Chapter 22 of Title 2.2. The Tax Commissioner shall make a written certification to the Comptroller within 15 days of the close of each calendar quarter providing an estimate of the net revenue generated by the corporate income taxes paid by the corporations that engage in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training in the calendar quarter. Not later than 30 days after the close of each quarter, the Comptroller shall transfer to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority an amount from the general fund that is equal to the estimate provided by the Tax Commissioner.


NASA to Open New Rocket Integration Facility at Wallops

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


NASA will unveil its new rocket integration facility at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 21.

The Horizontal Integration Facility will support medium class mission capabilities. The first customer to use the facility will be Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., with its Taurus II launch vehicle.

New Wine to Celebrate Virginia’s Wallops Island Spaceport

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia


The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Holly Grove Vineyards are pleased to announce  ‘Genesis’,  a new Virginia wine, with a very unique wine  label celebrating the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and Virginia’s return to space.  Billie Reed, the Space Authority’s Executive Director will give ‘Genesis’ to his NASA hosts when he attends the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in Florida, scheduled for November 1, 2010.


Virginia Could Lead the Way in Commercial Space

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

Space technology leadership rests with Va. delegation
by Jack Kennedy

Russia, China and India either have, or will have, vibrant human space launch capabilities by before the close of the next decade. The Russians and the Chinese will have multiple human to orbit capable space launch facilities by mid-decade now under construction.

If America is to continue as a leader is space technology, scientific research, and exploration, NASA needs a new and inspiring leadership role that abdicates the role of monopoly access provider to low earth orbit. NASA needs a strong commercial space launch sector regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The Senate measure provides it while the House measure simply does not.


Orbital Sciences Pushes Cost Advantages of Taurus II, Wallops Location

Orbital Pushes ‘Cheap’ Taurus Rocket
DoD Buzz

Currently, most DoD launches are handled by the EELV program, not known for its low costs or lack of cost growth over the last five years. EELV launches cost around $250 million a pop. Orbital’s Pieczynski estimates his company can provide Taurus 2 launches for “quite a bit south of $100 million a launch.” He would not get more specific. There are around three DoD launches for payloads of 10,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds each year, Pieczynski said.


Wallops Island Could Host Human Space Flights

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

Virginia Business has an interesting story on the commercial launch potential of Wallops Island in Virginia, which includes possible human launches aboard Atlas V by Bigelow Aerospace:

Over the next five years, the company will make eight launches of the Taurus II from Wallops, as part of a $1.9 billion contract Orbital has with NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The Orbital deal is nice, and there are even bigger prizes out there. The decades-long effort to let the private sector handle much of what NASA has traditionally done is gaining momentum. The Obama administration gave the idea a big push this year in its NASA budget proposal, which calls for outsourcing to private companies the delivery of supplies — and maybe some day crew members — to the space station.


Mikulski: Wallops Becoming the Southwest Airlines of Space

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

Here’s an interesting quote from Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski which was included in a press release issued after Gov. Martin O’Malley toured the Wallops Flight Facility on Monday.

“Wallops Island Flight Facility is home to American innovation. I fought to keep jobs at the Wallops Flight Facility and I will continue to fight to create the jobs of the future. Today we can see our investment in innovation is paying off, as Wallops becomes the Southwest Airlines of space: a lower cost, safer way to launch.”

The full press release after the break.


Maryland Governor Tours Wallops Island

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

WMDT-47 News has an interesting story the shows the importance of Wallops Island in Virginia to the Maryland economy:

On Monday, Governor Martin O’Malley will tour the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, one of the oldest launch sites in the world. NASA and the other organizations at Wallops, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) employ approximately 1,800 civilian positions, including government and contractor jobs, 700 of which are held by Marylanders…


The Case for Wallops Island as a Commercial Spaceport

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

Guest blogger Jack Kennedy, who edits the Spaceports blog, makes the case for Virginia’s Wallops Island to play a major role in NASA’s new commercial space policy in this op-ed piece, which ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on April 21. Kennedy is a former State Assemblyman who serves on the executive committee of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which governs the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. This essay is reprinted with the author’s permission.


By Jack Kennedy

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell has been consistent in his vision to make Virginia’s commercial spaceport the best in the nation, most notably with his recent budget amendment to increase the operations budget for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority; he is to be commended.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is now being readied for commercial space launches to haul supplies and cargo to the International Space Station beginning next year, following the aging space shuttle’s retirement. The first launch of the yet-to-be-tested Taurus-2 booster with the Cygnus spacecraft will mark not only the beginning of a new era in Virginia but the dawn of the commercial space age in America.


NASA’s Budget: A Mixed Bag for Virginia

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia

NASA’s proposed budget contains some very good news for NASA facilities and contractors in Virginia as well as a bit of bad news.

The likely winners: Orbitial Sciences Corporation, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The losers:  contractors working on the Constellation program at NASA Langley.