Virginia to Look at Spaceport Deal After Rocket Explosion - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Virginia to Look at Spaceport Deal After Rocket Explosion

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WBOC)- Virginia officials plan to re-examine a spaceport deal with Orbital Sciences Corp. following a rocket explosion that damaged a state-owned launch pad.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration may seek to renegotiate a memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with the company, said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane Jr.

Lane added that the administration supports the commercial spaceflight initiative but wants to ensure that the state's assets are protected.

“We're not going to have a repeat of this in the future,” Lane said.

McAuliffe also has asked U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine to look for federal funds to help pay for repairs.

An unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded moments after liftoff on Oct. 28. Orbital said earlier this month that preliminary results of its investigation point to a failure in one of the two main engines involved in the first stage of launch.

Lane said the explosion caused up to $20 million in damage to the launch pad's support systems, such as lightning protection and piping.

Virginia partnered with Dulles-based Orbital Sciences in 2008 to make improvements to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island. State bonds financed a large portion of the launch pad's nearly $150 million cost.

Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski said the company is in talks with the state and NASA about repairs and the state's financial risk. The state self-insures the launch pad through the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

Warner and Kaine pledged in a statement issued Tuesday that they would work with “colleagues from both parties, both chambers ... to see if there may be federal resources available to help rebound from this setback.”



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