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RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell today congratulated Orbital Sciences Corporation for the launch of their Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station. The launch occurred at the new Virginia Space launch facility at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia.
The launch took place on September 18, 2013, from MARS Pad 0A, which was designed and built to accommodate medium-class liquid-fuel space launch vehicles. The goal of the ORB-D1 COTS Demo mission is to demonstrate the operational Antares launch system to deliver the Cygnus space vehicle to the International Space Station with cargo.
Speaking about the launch, Governor McDonnell remarked, “In just over a week, Virginia has witnessed two historic launches from the Mid-Altantic Regional Spaceport. The first was the LADEE mission to the moon. Today, Orbital Sciences Corporation launched their Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station. These historic launches are sure to put Virginia on the map as a leader in space exploration. We are well on our way to making Wallops Island the top commercial spaceport in the country. I congratulate everyone who helped to make today’s launch successful.”
Virginia Secretary of Transportation, Sean Connaughton, said, “This has been a long time coming, with the full support of Governor McDonnell and multiple Virginia Governors before him. Space is a key part of the transportation infrastructure. Virginia Transportation is not just roads, rails and ports – we are space too.”
Dale Nash, Executive Director of VCSFA, commented from the Wallops Range Control Center, “The ORB-D1 COTS Demo Mission confirms full operational capability of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's (MARS) Pad-0A. This is the second Antares launch with eight more currently on the manifest, and it follows the successful NASA LADEE mission launched on an Orbital Minotaur V rocket off MARS Pad-0B by less than two-weeks. In addition to LADEE and the COTS Demo, two more missions are scheduled to be launched out of MARS before the end of the year. It has become a very good partnership between NASA, MARS and Orbital and one that benefits the Nation and Virginia.”
Orbital, a northern Virginia corporation, is next scheduled to conduct a Demonstration Mission of cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS). The Demonstration Mission is the final operational milestone under the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) agreement. Following the successful completion of the COTS research and development program, Orbital is slated to deliver up to 20,000 kgs (44,000 lbs) of supplies to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The Demonstration Mission and CRS flights will continue to launch from MARS Pad 0A, located on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, which is ideally suited for ISS missions, and can also accommodate launches to other orbits of interest.
Virginia plays a key role in national security and assured access to space as one of only four states in the United States that is licensed by the FAA to launch spacecraft into orbit. Virginia stands ready to continue supporting Orbital in launching Antares on cargo resupply missions to the ISS as well as any other future missions.