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Thursday, August 13, 2009

'Bob' McDonnell Pledges to Make Virginia Spaceport No. 1 in America

Bob McDonnell, Republican gubernatorial nominee, unveiled his plans to have Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) top commercial Spaceport in America, highlighting proposals for more money, organizing areospace business, recruiting space launch firms, and STEM education.

State Senator Creigh Deeds, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, outlined his plans in a letter to the Accomack County Board of Supervisors earlier this week. Both are essentially very supportive of the spaceport.

Highlights of McDonnell's Plan to make Wallops Island the top commercial Spaceport in America include:

· Supporting a ten-fold increase in base funding for the spaceport operations, bringing them to $1 million annually, and focusing a portion of the funding on a coordinated marketing strategy to attract more companies to invest in and create jobs in Virginia;
· Creating an aerospace business roundtable to bring experts together to plan for Spaceport development and future projects;
· Aggressively recruiting and growing new and existing aerospace companies;
· Promoting space tourism initiatives;
· Supporting scholarships and investment in aerospace related educational programs and workforce training opportunities; and,
· Putting "Virginia First" - leading the country in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) educational programs and ensuring our workforce is highly skilled in career and technical skills, which the Spaceport relies upon.

Speaking about his plans to make Wallops Island the top commercial Spaceport in America,McDonnell said, "The Virginia Economic Development Partnership projected Orbital's Taurus II project at Wallops Island alone will generate 125 six-figure paying jobs and 222 indirect jobs with suppliers and contractors. Additionally, this project, which provides cargo re-supply for the space station, will generate another 93 direct jobs and countless indirect jobs. In revenue it will produce more than $7 million in five years, $13 million in ten and $23 million in 20 years. These are immediate and positive benefits to the Commonwealth. They demonstrate the importance of making certain that we fully utilize and support this great resource for Virginia. For that reason I will support a ten-fold increase in base funding for MARS to bring them to $1 million in funding annually. The Spaceport is the kind of innovative opportunity that is crucial to the economic resurgence we need in Virginia. I'm running to be a jobs governor and I will work tirelessly to support the Spaceport and every job creating opportunity we have in Virginia"

MARS is now building $70 million dollars worth of new spaceport infrastructure, which will enable the spaceport to launch medium-heavy to heavy rockets. Funding for the new launch pad, horizontal integration facilities, fueling systems, etc., is coming from the Commonwealth, the federal government and private industry.

In June of 2008, after intense, head-to-head competition with Florida, Orbital Sciences Corporation, selected MARS as the demonstration site for the launch of their new Taurus II rocket. To win the launch competition with Florida, the General Assembly and Governor supported $26 million in bond financing for new infrastructure needed at the Spaceport to accommodate larger rockets. Orbital will invest $45 million in Virginia to assemble, test and launch Taurus II. Orbital received $170 million from NASA for the new rocket design and manufacturing.

In December of 2008, Orbital Sciences received a $1.9 billion dollar contract for eight re-supply missions to the International Space Station beginning in 2011 to 2015. Orbital will launch the re-supply missions from MARS. The Chairman of Orbital recently said they expect to launch 4-to-6 rockets a year from MARS after the new infrastructure is operational.

MARS has been selected by NASA to launch LADDEE, [the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer]. The US Air Force has selected MARS, again, to participate in launches for its 'Operationally Responsive Space" program which uses space to help battlefield commanders 'real time' in the field such as TacSat-2, TacSat-3 and NFIRE.

As Governor, McDonnell pledged he will aggressively promote space tourism initiatives. Virginia's hospitality industry is a major economic driver, creating jobs and revenue. He understands the value of our hospitality industry and fully intends to promote our Commonwealth to 'space lovers'. As Governor, he said he will also work to recruit companies to Virginia that sponsor personal/civilian spaceflights. More from The Daily Press.

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