About three hours from Washington, DC at Virginia’s Eastern Shore is the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). Established in 1945, the spaceport provides launch support services and facilities to the U.S. government, the private sector, and academia.
This week NASA will be testing a potential new crew abort method for the Ares program at the Virginia facility. According to NASA, “the unpiloted test is part of an effort to design a system for safely propelling future spacecraft and crews away from hazards on the launch pad or during the climb to orbit.” Read more about it, here.
Virginia taxpayers have invested millions of dollars to develop a space program for the Commonwealth. The region has been the site of thousands of launches of smaller rockets, but things are changing. Regional and state leaders are focusing efforts to ensure that it becomes a profitable hub for commercial launches. The facility is only one of four commercial payload centers in the United States.
In May, NASA successfully launched a Minotaur I rocket with a multi-million dollar defense department research satellite payload. The event marked a milestone and more such launches are expected. Late last year the Orbital Corporation in Dulles, Virginia was awarded a $1.9 billion space station cargo delivery contract that will bring more business to this facility and the region.