Virginia Teaming Up with Alaska for Space Launch Alliance

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia and Alaska are teaming up to make the most of their commercial space operations.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced Thursday an operating agreement between the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. The two spaceports will work together to share engineering, technical knowledge and operating procedures.

The spaceports don’t compete for the same launches, so they could work together to offer customers launching options on both the East and West coasts, said Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island.

Nash came to Virginia in 2012 after departing as CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corp, which operates KLC, a spaceport on Kodiak Island.

The Alaska facility has struggled financially, with the Legislature there threatening to cut its funding if it didn’t bring in more business.

The state created the Alaska Aerospace Corp. in 1991 to develop an aerospace sector for Alaska’s economy, and the Kodiak Launch Complex was built to compete with Vandenberg Spaceport in California.

The corporation was able to pay for operations from its launches with federal grants. But for the past two years, the Alaska corporation had to rely on state subsidies.

The state provided $4 million to the corporation in 2011 and $8 million last year, when Parnell also approved $25 million to expand the Kodiak facility. The corporation also received $8 million this year in funding from the Legislature.

Virginia’s facility, meanwhile, recently stepped into the national spotlight, transforming from a little-known launch pad for small research rockets to a major player in the U.S. space program.

In April, Orbital Sciences Corp. conducted its first test launch of its Antares rocket under a NASA program in which private companies deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Virginia has four upcoming launches, including two in September to the moon and to the International Space Station.

The governors said the collaboration will benefit both states. Parnell said it also will provide cost-effective and reliable launch options for companies.

“As the U.S. space program increases its reliance on the commercial sector, these types of partnerships will not only help keep America competitive in the space industry, but will help create much-needed jobs and economic development,” McDonnell said in a release.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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