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Orbital partners with Commercial Space Flight Authority

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell today announced that the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and the Orbital Sciences Corp. based in Dulles have reached an agreement to govern their working relationship and allocation of assets at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

In an earlier agreement entered into in 2008, Orbital partnered with the VCSFA to develop and construct improvements to the liquid-fuel-capable launch facility at MARS in order to accommodate launches of Orbital’s Antares rocket. Those improvements are expected to be completed later this month.

McDonnell said in his announcement that the new partnership will kick off a new era of commercial aerospace activity in the state.

“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. A recent economic analysis of Virginia’s space industry noted that it contributes $7.6 billion in economic output and supports 28,110 jobs,” McDonnell said. “CSFA’s successful completion of the MARS spaceport development project and the impending commencement of on-pad operations, positions Virginia – with its business-friendly climate, tremendous institutions of higher education and diverse workforce – for continued growth in this vibrant high-tech market.”

With the second memorandum of understanding between Orbital and the VCSFA, three conditions were agreed upon.

Orbital will launch a total of 10 Antares missions from MARS, including one test flight, one demonstration flight, and eight resupply missions to the International Space Station.

Virginia will fund the completion of the improvements at MARS to support the Antares missions and future customers.

The VCFSA will own and operate all non-Antares-specific assets that can be used by future additional customers.

The second MOU also addresses use of MARS by other customers during the term of Orbital’s resupply missions.

David Thompson, chairman and chief executive officer, noted how the partnership will be beneficial for the commercial aerospace industry.

“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,” Thompson said. “As a Virginia-headquartered company, 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.”

VCSFA Executive Director Dale Nash explained how the partnership will expand their capabilities.

“MARS is one of only four commercial facilities licensed in the U.S. to launch rockets into orbit,”  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.”


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