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Virginia's Invisible Spaceport (Updated)

By Keith Cowing
October 18, 2011
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Virginia Governor McDonnell Visits NASA Wallops Flight Facility (With Photos)
“Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell paid a visit to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on October 17 for a first-hand look at the development of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II rocket that will start carrying supplies to the International Space Station in 2012. Orbital will be conducting missions for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and Commercial Resupply Services contract. During the visit the Governor also received a construction update on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s launch pad 0A from which the Taurus II will launch.”
Keith’s 9:09 am EDT note: While NASA Wallops makes mention of the visit of the Governor of Virginia, no menion is made of this visit on his own website, at the MidAtlantic Regional Spaceport Authority, or at Orbital Sciences. This is not at all surprising since virtually everyone here in Virginia seems to be oblivious to the fact that we have a real rocket factory in our midst and that our state can actually launch things into space – soon, to the ISS itself. Florida really doesn’t need to worry about launch competition from Wallops. We hardly even know it is there ourselves.
Keith’s 10:55 am EDT update: At 10:40 am EDT Orbital tweeted “Orbital is proud to have hosted Gov. McDonnell to our @NASA_Wallops facilities for a tour and briefing yesterday.” and also retweeted a pic originally Tweeted by @NASA_Wallops. Still no press release or mention at Orbital’s website.
Keith’s 2:00 pm EDT update: Still no press release from Orbital. MidAtlantic Regional Spaceport Authority made an update. The Virginia Governor’s office did make an update – for an unrelated 18 October event – but posted nothing about yesterday’s event at Wallops. Commercial space is clearly not a big priority here in Virginia – its yours for the taking, Florida.
Keith’s 2:49 pm EDT note: In response to a tweet about this posting, @OrbitalSciences just tweeted: “@NASAWatch Really? Then why did @GovernorVA make a special trip to the launch site? Comm’l space isn’t about press releases and photos.” My tweeted response “Well, since you asked, @OrbitalSciences , you can’t even bother to put a simple press release out? Not everyone reads Twitter you know”. Governors also visit county fairs and shopping mall openings – and you see media alerts for those things. Not for commercial space. If no one reads or knows about visits like this – they did not happen. What a missed opportunity.
If the commercial space sector in Virginia wants to be taken seriously – and have an effect (i.e. draw commercial space business to the state and then keep it there), then both government and private sector players will need to emulate what the folks are doing in Florida. They are constantly in the news – via all modes. They get it – and they are successful. Virginia does not get it – and various local stakeholders whine and complain when Florida make moves to protect its space sector.
Everyone in Florida knows where the rockets take off in their state. But how many people in Virginia know where the rockets are launched within their state – and when – and why?

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.