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Orbital Sciences Corporation invests $45 million for new rocket to launch from Wallops Island

Governor Timothy M. Kaine today announced that Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has confirmed its selection of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located at Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore, as its base of operations for the company's new Taurus II rocket. Orbital will invest approximately $45 million in Virginia to assemble, test and launch the Taurus II space launch vehicle. The rocket program will also create approximately 125 new jobs in the state, which will be based both at Orbital's Dulles headquarters and at the Wallops Island launch site.

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) oversees the Old Dominion University-affiliated Virginia Space Flight Center at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. The VCSFA was created in 1995 to disseminate knowledge pertaining to scientific and technological research and development among public and private entities including, but not limited to, knowledge in the area of commercial space flight, and to promote industrial and economic development. A Board of Directors, composed of 12 members, manages the Authority.

Oktay Baysal, the dean of ODU's Batten College, as well as an aerospace engineer, said this step toward MARS becoming a major launch site validates decisions made at the university a decade or more ago. "We dreamed, conceptualized and convinced the state to put together the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and we appointed one of our professors to be the director. We have been waiting for activities to pick up for 8-10 years now."

Baysal said new activity at the spaceport also will present academic opportunities. "There are several layers of educational and research possibilities, and we try to exploit them."

The first mission of the Taurus II rocket is scheduled for late 2010. It will be the launch vehicle for a joint NASA and Orbital cargo delivery demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS). If NASA selects Orbital for operational cargo missions to the ISS later this year, those missions would also originate from MARS, beginning in 2011.

"NASA's Wallops Flight Facility has launched more than 15,000 rockets from Wallops Island since its founding in 1945," said Governor Kaine. "The facility helps to meet the needs of the United States aerospace technology interests and science research and I congratulate Orbital Science Corporation on this significant contract to launch the new Taurus II."

Headquartered in Loudoun County, Virginia, Orbital Sciences Corporation develops and manufactures small rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company's primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low Earth-orbit, geosynchronous Earth-orbit and planetary spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to government agencies and laboratories.

"We appreciate the significant contributions that the Commonwealth of Virginia, MARS and other interested parties are making to improve the Wallops space launch infrastructure. These improvements will allow Taurus II launches and resupply flights to the International Space Station to be conducted from the Eastern Shore," stated Antonio Elias, Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group. "Our team looks forward to becoming a catalyst for growth in the local economy as our operations take shape over the next several years."

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Accomack County, Loudoun County, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and the Virginia Public Building Authority to secure the project for Virginia. Virginia Delegate Lynwood Lewis and Senator Mark Herring were also instrumental in the project. Governor Kaine approved a $1 million performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) program, an incentive available to existing Virginia companies. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide training assistance through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

We are very glad to hear that Orbital has chosen to use NASA's Wallops Flight Facility for testing its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services system," said Ron Wolf, Chairman of the County of Accomack Board of Supervisors. "It will have a great positive impact on our local economy. We also thank the Governor, our state and federal representatives, NASA, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership for working so hard to make this happen. We support our businesses here in Accomack. We will do everything in our power to welcome Orbital to our community and will work hard to help it grow and succeed. "

"We are extremely pleased that Orbital Sciences Corporation has committed, over the long-term, to Loudoun as its headquarters location," stated Scott K. York, Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. "It is leading edge, innovative companies like Orbital that help make Loudoun a great place to live and do business. We were glad to work with the state and its partners to ensure another 'win' for Virginia with the announcement of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island."

This article was posted on: June 10, 2008

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