Monday, February 17, 2014

Bigelow Wallops the Cape

The Orbital Sciences Antares launches on September 18, 2013 from the NASA Wallops facility. Image source: Orbital Sciences.

The Delmarva Daily Times reports that Bigelow Aerospace may look at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility for crewed test flights.

A private space company wants to use the spaceport at Wallops for manned missions, a company representative told members of the Eastern Shore Defense Alliance at their quarterly meeting.

“We are prepared to make a proposal that will include human spaceflight from Wallops,” said Michael N. Gold, director of D.C. Operations for Bigelow Aerospace, a private company based in Las Vegas.

The company is talking to NASA about the possibility of conducting a demonstration mission that would involve human spaceflight — and Bigelow wants to use Virginia’s spaceport as its base.

Why not the Space Coast?

... Bigelow would like to use Virginia’s spaceport for future missions, Gold said, noting Wallops has advantages over other options available to private companies.

Kennedy Space Center in Florida has “so much activity that commercial activity will be bumped,” while developing a new launch facility takes years, he said.

“Wallops is just right; you’ve got everything you need in terms of legal and regulatory readiness, but it’s not so developed” that the company would encounter a lot of delays, Gold said.

The article doesn't mention the launch vehicle. The only company launching from Wallops is Orbital Sciences. Their Antares rocket sends the Cygnus cargo module to the International Space Station. Antares is not human-rated, and Cygnus burns up on re-entry so it can't be used for crew.

Reading between the lines, Mr. Gold's comments would seem to support recent claims by Space Florida that a separate commercial spaceport is needed here outside of KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The state agency is proposing a commercial spaceport at the site of the old Shiloh farm town north of State Route 402, near the Volusia County line.

The land is currently owned by NASA, and would have to be transferred to the State of Florida to exempt it from NASA oversight.

The proposal is opposed by some local environmental and fishing interest groups.

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