McDonnell Pushes Wallops Island as Gateway to Space

photoWallops Island might not have quite the same ring as Cape Canaveral but Gov. Bob McDonnell thinks it could become the leading commercial space flight center in the United States.

McDonnell yesterday released a KMPG Corporate Finance study on the economic competitiveness of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA). The study reviewed the governance, organization and competitive landscape for the VCSFA needed  to make the Mid Atlantic Spaceport (MARS), located on Wallops Island, the country’s leading commercial space launch facility.

A 6-square-mile island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Wallops is just south of Chincoteague Island.

“As home to one of only four facilities licensed by the FAA to send rockets into orbit, the Wallops Flight Facility at MARS has the potential to become the leading commercial space flight facility in the United State, all while creating much needed jobs and economic development in all corners of the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said. “With our tremendous educational institutions, manufacturing capabilities, workforce, and ranking as the number one state in the nation in which to do business, the recommendations contained in this report will help Virginia seize a growing portion of this critical sector.”

The report identifies a number of findings related to the VCSFA and makes seven key recommendations designed to enhance the economic competitiveness of Virginia’s commercial space flight industry.

  • Make the capital investment necessary to turn MARS into a multi-use facility and attract new customers.
  • The VCSFA should develop market-based usage cost rates that reflect the infrastructure, site, facilities, and range equipment at MARS.
  • The VCSFA must focus on a long range strategy for MARS.
  • The Board of Directors should be restructured to reflect the mission, purpose and size of the VCSFA.
  • The VCSFA should reevaluate and refresh agreements with other entities.
  • The VCSFA staff and organizational structure should reflect the strategic direction.

“Virginia’s space industry currently contributes $7.6 billion in annual direct economic output and supports over 28,000 jobs,” McDonnell said. “Given the job creation and economic development potential surrounding MARS, I will be submitting a promotion bill this session of the General Assembly to implement the report’s recommendations. The VCSFA has the potential to become a major economic force in the Commonwealth. We must take the steps to ensure that this occurs.”

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority was created in 1995 by the General Assembly to oversee the development of the commercial space flight industry in the Commonwealth. In 1997, The Federal Aviation Administration granted the VCSFA one of only four licenses to launch rockets into Earth orbit. In the years following its creation, the VCSFA has worked closely with the General Assembly to enact a number of policies that lead the FAA to recognize Virginia as “the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to supporting commercial space.”

“Since the VCSFA’s creation, Virginia has become a leader in commercial space flight,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. “We look forward to working with the General Assembly this session to implement the initiatives recommended in KPMG’s report and take the steps necessary to ensure the continued success of the commercial space industry in Virginia.”

Copies of the report can be found at:





About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.