Vector, Virginia Space announce upcoming orbital launches from Wallops
NewSpace continues to make progress in terms of expanding its presence in the establishment. This past week, it was announced that nanosatellite launch service provider Vector had inked a deal with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (more commonly known as Virginia Space) to conduct three commercial flights out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) over the course of the next two years with possibly five additional launches in the offing.
The agreement was announced by Virginia State Governor Terry McAuliffe with an “engineering unit” of the company’s Vector-R launch vehicle being transported from the company’s headquarters located in Tucson, Arizona, to MARS. Along for the journey was a Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) – used to erect the rocket into the vertical position.
Vector will also conduct a series of ground and simulated propellant loading operations with the engineering unit and TEL.
“As home to one of only four spaceports in the nation that launches to orbit, the Commonwealth of Virginia is the best place to do business both on and off this planet,” Governor McAuliffe said via a company-issued release. “We’re thrilled to welcome Vector as a customer of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. It is a testament to Virginia’s highly skilled workforce and state-of-the-art facilities for this dynamic 21st-century company to choose MARS as a launch site. I am proud of the work we have done to improve and protect the MARS Spaceport and I look forward to partnering with Vector as the company continues to grow and providing a business climate that contributes to its continued success.”
“This agreement with Virginia Space represents a significant milestone for Vector as we continue to deliver on our mission of making space open for business,” Jim Cantrell, CEO and co-founder of Vector said via a release issued by the State. “Today’s events mark the start of a strong and growing partnership between Vector and Virginia Space, and we look forward to continuing our momentum with their support to get to an orbital capability in 2018.”
“We are very pleased to add another launch customer at MARS,” said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne who also serves as the Chair of the Virginia Space Board of Directors. “The organization continues to focus strategic planning efforts on attracting new launch customers to utilize the excellent facilities and capabilities provided by Virginia Space and NASA Wallops. The addition of Vector to the launch customer portfolio helps establish Virginia as a leading industry hub and it is a great way to maximize the return on the existing Commonwealth investment at MARS.”
“When initial discussions with Vector began, we all quickly understood that this partnership would be excellent fit between Vector’s needs and the capabilities that could be provided by both MARS and NASA Wallops Flight Facility,” commented Virginia Space Executive Director & CEO Dale Nash. By leveraging the talent and expertise already present in the MARS workforce and creatively using the Spaceport assets at Pad 0B, the opportunity existed for Vector to quickly capitalize on MARS infrastructure to promote and develop their business through the contracted launch operations.”
The term “NewSpace”, in the case of Vector, is somewhat of a misnomer as the company is composed of individuals with deep ties to the aerospace community. Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Sea Launch, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and VMware are all companies that the individuals who formed Vector once worked for.
Vector and Virginia Space are hopeful that these first flights from MARS are part of a series of orbital launches which will further enable Vector to validate the technology, perfect the launch vehicle design and operations, as well as firmly establish commercial launch sites for the future.
Besides sounding rockets and balloons, at present, Wallops only plays host to Orbital ATK’s Antares launch vehicle which flies from MARS’ Pad-0A (the next flight, OA-8, is currently scheduled for November 11, 2017).
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.