Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) visited Loudoun County Wednesday, attending the Virginia Aviation and Aerospace Summit, held at the Northrop Grumman Campus in Sterling.
The Governor’s Aerospace Advisory Council, which hosted the event, serves as advisor to the governor regarding policy and funding priorities to promote aerospace and space exploration industry in Virginia.
“Technology is only going to keep advancing at breakneck speed,” Northam said.
“Our future will be as much about what is taking place in the sky, as it is what is taking place on the ground — and luckily, due to outstanding work and collaboration between government and private industry, Virginia is prepared to meet and lean on the opportunities of our future,” he said.
Northam shared a number of Virginia’s initiatives and milestones in the field of aviation during the visit. He said the commonwealth has 66 airports — most of which are in rural areas — and have been provided opportunities to apply for grants towards helping with improvements to attract and retain business in their communities.
The governor also said that the commonwealth has benefitted economically from the Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in his hometown on the eastern shore.
Northam said with the council’s interest in promoting the industry, there is an opportunity to develop air mobility that is designed to move people and goods from urban and suburban areas.
Space-related business development opportunities will require state action and support, according to a report from Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Virginia must continue to support space-related state players including NASA Langley, Virginia Space and MARS, and partner with them on business development opportunities, the report states.
Additionally, VEDP urges further investment be made around the space port, and markets Virginia’s supporting assets for the sector to space-related companies such as the commonwealth’s pipeline of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent, federal agencies and other government customers.
Loudoun County has access to at least three international airports Dulles International, but also Leesburg Executive Airport, which serves a variety of aircrafts, including corporate jets.
Secretary of Labor Megan Healy and Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine were joined by a couple dozen people for the summit including local and state leaders from Fairfax.
Shortly before Northam’s arrival to Sterling, actor William Shatner, known for his role on the science-fiction television series Star Trek, flew up to space along with three other passengers on the Blue Origin rocket.
Northam, exiting the summit to attend two more events on Wednesday, was asked about what it would take for him to consider flying in space.
“We fly a lot,” Northam said.
“We flew up here today, but we’re going to keep in the relative airspace,” he said. “I don’t have any intentions of going up any higher.”