The space agency notes that offshore oil and natural gas development would interfere with rockets' flight patterns. NASA fears that giant platforms would interfere with low-altitude suborbital rockets or make missile launchings from its Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. much more difficult, Keith Koehler, a NASA spokesman. DoD may also have an interest since the Navy uses the area for military training.
"Costs associated with commercial space launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport could soar if there are a number of oil rigs in the commercial launch vehicle flight path requiring the production to be temporarily shutdown and oil workers removed from the ocean platforms for a countdown," notes Jack Kennedy, a member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Map of proposed drilling.
On Wednesday, the U.S Minerals Management Service kicked off a 45-day comment-seeking period, an early step toward a proposed lease sale of waters 50 miles off the coast of Virginia. The area could hold 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, MMS Director Randall Luthi said during a conference call Wednesday morning. The sale could take place as early as 2011, according to the Dow Jones Newswire.
President-elect Barack Obama has said he could support drilling as part of a more comprehensive energy plan. Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, has expressed support for natural-gas exploration off the shores of the state, a view shared by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb and Mark Warner, a Democrat who last week won the state's other Senate seat.