Rocket Launch Pad Repairs to Take About 1 Year - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rocket Launch Pad Repairs to Take About 1 Year

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Damage to Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A is visible from this aerial photograph taken by NASA on October 29, 2014. (Photo: Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority) Damage to Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A is visible from this aerial photograph taken by NASA on October 29, 2014. (Photo: Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority)
Area around the crater is scheduled for soil remediation, (outlined in red). (Photo: Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority) Area around the crater is scheduled for soil remediation, (outlined in red). (Photo: Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority)
 NORFOLK, Va. (WBOC/AP) - The Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority says repairs to its launch pad on Wallops Island will likely take a year.

After four successful launches including three Cygnus cargo deliveries to the International Space Station (ISS), the Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket experienced an anomaly in its first stage fifteen seconds after lift-off from the Spaceport, resulting in a catastrophic failure of the vehicle. The unmanned commercial supply rocket exploded moments after liftoff on Oct. 28. The space flight authority owns and operates the launch pad and says severe damage was spared, but repairs are necessary. 

On Wednesday, the authority said a detailed engineering inspection of the spaceport has been completed. The authority says the cost and work schedule for repairs to the launch paid are being refined, but should not exceed $20 million.

The environmental team conducted soil sampling in the impact crater and in the area surrounding the launch pad.  Test results showed the contamination was contained in the area immediately around the crater.  This area will require 6" of soil removal for remediation, which is scheduled to commence the first week of December.   

The authority says initial water samples indicate there was no impact to back bays or tributaries and soil testing showed contamination was contained in the area immediately around the crater created north of the launch pad.

Virginia Space, NASA, and Orbital Sciences have worked together over the past six years to build the world class launch facility known as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport or MARS- providing the nation with a second East Coast launch site; an important national asset that serves NASA cargo resupply to the International Space Station (ISS), supports NASA science missions and provides access to orbits important to national security programs.

Orbital has announced plans to return Antares to flight at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport with a 'hot fire' test anticipated for late 2015 and the maiden voyage of the upgraded Antares in 2016.  Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne remains confident flights from MARS will resume in 2016, but with additional protections for Virginia taxpayers.  

"We are looking for both Orbital and NASA to partner with the Commonwealth for funding to begin repairing the launch facility and ongoing environmental cleanup.  Then let's put a sustainable plan in place for the long term.  That's what the Governor has asked us to do."   
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