Temporary tracking complex could bring space business to North Carolina in the future

Posted at 10:24 PM, Nov 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-12 22:24:57-05

Outer Banks, Va. - Rocket launches from Wallops Island have put Virginia on the map.

But what a lot of people don't know is that deep down a gravel road near Coquina Beach on the Outer Banks, you'll find a remote spot that has played a big role in rocket launches over the years, and it could bring space business to North Carolina in the future.

"It has radar, it has telemetry, it has command and control systems that we can set up there as an as needed basis for some of the rocket launches," said Keith Koehler, NASA Wallops News Chief.

The area typically consists of trailers, radars and satellites when a rocket, that is being launched from Wallops Island, needs to be tracked.  Right now, the space is empty.  It is only a temporary location - for now.

"The great thing about Coquina - it allows us to get a side view of some of the launches that we do here out of Wallops when they're flying toward the southeast," said Koehler.

That view is critical during the launches, especially for solid fueled rockets.  Those rockets create small particles that block the tracking signal from radars at Wallops.  That's a different type of rocket than the Antares that exploded just after lift off a few weeks ago.  The Coquina complex is also important to ensure safety around the launch pad when a rocket lifts off.

But Koehler says if NASA decides to launch more solid fueled rockets, a more permanent tracking/telemetry facility would be needed on the Outer Banks, which could help bring space business and educational outreach to the area - something it's never seen before.

"I think anything that would bring more professional jobs, more professional people to the community would be great," said David Downing, a Dare County resident.