Earlier this month, Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell appeared before a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees of the soon-to-be 2011 General Assembly in Richmond with his budget priorities for next year and among them – a financial boost for the state’s commercial spaceport at Wallops Island.
McDonnell pledged significant operational support to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority in 2010 increasing the operation budget of the spaceport to $1,379,095 and $1,000,000 for 2011. His latest request to the 2011 General Assembly is $1,379,095 for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 or a $379,079 increase over what was approved last year (line item K).
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, one of only four FAA-commercial orbital launch facilities in the nation, is expected to commence launching re-supply and cargo to the International Space Station in 2011 from Wallops Island in Accomack County, Va. NASA is also planning a unmanned mission from Wallops Island to the Moon in early 2013.
Virginia was the first state in the nation to adopt a Commercial Space Flight Liability and Immunity statute in 2007 and the first to adopt a ZeroGravity-ZeroTax statute in 2008. Virginia’s unique actions gained the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, with a report naming the state as a ‘Change Agent’ for commercial space flight.
Virginia’s Congressional delegation played a significant role in the adoption of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 in both the Senate and the House – 12 of 13 members voting ‘yes.’ The emerging aerospace state is expected to benefit from commercial space launch development.