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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Gov. McAuliffe Announces Commercial Space-Flight Agreement

At Old Dominion University on Thursday, Aug. 6, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a restructured state deal with NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and the aerospace company Orbital ATK that will protect Virginia's $150 million investment in the commercial space industry.

Last October's failed launch of a cargo rocket bound for the International Space Station did $15 million worth of damage to the state-owned Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, whose headquarters are located on ODU's campus.

The Spaceport operates the launch pad at Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, as part of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

Only after the accident, said the governor, did he learn Virginia was responsible for all repair costs according to the agreement that was negotiated before he took office.

"You just don't launch a rocket and not have insurance. I found that almost unfathomable," McAuliffe told reporters after announcing NASA and Orbital would split current and future repair costs with the Commercial Space Flight Authority.

"Right after the accident happened, there was a chance our space activities going forward may have ended," McAuliffe continued. "If the rocket had destroyed the pad that might have been the end of space travel in Virginia. The good news is that's behind us."

Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, said he expected the launch pad to be repaired by the end of September. Another launch of a cargo rocket for the space station is scheduled for March.

Only Virginia and Florida launch supply missions to the space station.

McAuliffe also announced Thursday an agreement with NASA to build a 3,000-foot runway for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, at Wallops. He said construction would start in the fall.

"Once again, Virginia is leading the way," McAuliffe said. "Now adding the UAV piece to it, we are making ourselves a real center in the whole aerospace industry."

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