McAuliffe announces unmanned aircraft runway at Wallops Island, says launch pad repairs will be complete in the fall

Posted at 11:06 AM, Aug 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-06 12:41:15-04

Norfolk, Va. - Construction will begin on a 3,000-foot Unmanned Aircraft Systems runway at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday.

The runway is part of a new agreement with NASA and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. The first flights are slated to begin in 2016.

Gov. McAuliffe also announced that an agreement had been made between the Commonwealth at Orbital ATK regarding repair costs and insurance coverage for the Antares rocket launch mishap in October 2014.

“The aerospace industry is a central part of my Administration’s efforts to create high-tech jobs and build a new Virginia economy,”said Governor McAuliffe.  “This agreement will strengthen the MARS facility and better protect taxpayers in the future. I am committed to supporting this industry and MARS, and look forward to a return to flight at this national asset.”

The launch failed just six seconds after starting and caused significant damage to portions of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island.

“The Governor was clear in his direction following the October 2014 launch mishap that the Virginia Space Authority was going to change the way it conducted business and become a sustainable entity,” said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne. “The new agreement protects the Commonwealth’s assets at MARS against damage while at the same time providing a state-of-the-art launch facility for our customer, Orbital ATK, at a highly competitive price.”

The MARS continues to make progress on repair efforts and launch pad reconstruction.

“The cost of repairs to Pad 0A are expected to be approximately $15 million at completion, split equally between Virginia Space, Orbital ATK and NASA, and rebuild efforts are on schedule as we continue to work with our partners to return the Spaceport to operational status,” said Virginia Space Authority Executive Director Dale Nash.

Repair efforts are expected to be complete in the fall, with launches set to continue in 2016.