Mathias pushing for study on Wallops’ future capacity

(March 27, 2015) Following a similar measure approved last month in Virginia, State Sen. Jim Mathias (D38) is sponsoring a Senate joint resolution that encourages NASA to take steps to allow the launch and landing of commercial vehicles and spacecraft at Wallops Island.

“The resolution would urge NASA to perform an environmental impact study to have booster rockets launched and landed,” Mathias said, “which puts us on a footing for contractual work. Right now it’s all unmanned.”

The move by both states is in response to a similar study nearing completion for the launch facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., according to the resolution’s text. It also states this study is a necessary step in getting FAA approval for launch or landing permits.

“There are only a few places in the country that can do these launches, and we need to remain competitive. Half the jobs at Wallops Island are Maryland jobs,” Mathias said.

The study, according to the resolution text, would be related to “landing fully reusable space launch booster rockets and human space flight.”

The Virginia resolution mentions SpaceX and its proposed testing of reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon heavy boosters at Cape Canaveral.

“BEACON did a study. Wallops Island is huge, substantial and important to our future. It provides us with a significant economic impact. Remaining competitive is vital as it creates jobs and gives us the benefits of new technology,” Mathias said.

The facility continues to launch sounding rockets as repairs continue from an October explosion of an Antares rocket slated to resupply the International Space Station. Federal funds have been secured to finance the repairs.

Several sources report “hot fire” testing of Antares rockets, where they burn fuel in a controlled way without actually launching, may begin once again on the site in late 2015, in anticipation of launches resuming in 2016.

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