Accomack County could be the next location for space travel infrastructure if Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has his way thanks to a proposed expansion by Rocket Lab USA, Inc.
Wednesday, Northam announced the location is a finalist for “significant investment” by the private, California-based company to expand its U.S. manufacturing and launch operations.
Plans would include the development of a new facility to facilitate part production, assembly, integration and test operations to support the launch of its new Neutron rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
If the location is selected, it would bring 250 jobs to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
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“The prospect of Rocket Lab coming to Accomack is incredible for someone who grew up just a few miles from Wallops Island,” Northam said. “I used to love watching rockets take off when I was a kid. Years later, I’m excited to work with Rocket Lab to help create exciting new opportunities near my family home on the Eastern Shore.”
Upcoming projects from Rocket Lab include the March 2021 announcement that the Neutron rocket is expected to be operational in late 2024 and is designed to deliver a 17,600-pound payload to low Earth orbit, and may ultimately support human spaceflight.
As an end-to-end company, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle and the Photon satellite platform, and is developing the Neutron 8-ton payload class launch vehicle.
“Virginia Space hopes to continue our already outstanding relationship with a premiere company like Rocket Lab,” said Major Gen. Ted Mercer, USAF (ret), CEO and Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. “We were able to leverage our existing world-class assets and the significant investment the commonwealth has made at MARS to enhance our capability.”
Virginia Space owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the MARS Unmanned Systems Test Range, the MARS Payload Processing Facility and the Integration and Control Facility at the Wallops Research Park.
According to Mercer, such overtures will be “instrumental” in convincing Rocket Lab to expand its operations and bring future missions to Virginia.
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine called the possibility of an expanded partnership with Rocket Lab an “accelerator” to more access to space. She also echoed Mercer’s sentiment that the collaboration among the commonwealth, Virginia Space, NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Rocket Lab would develop Wallops Island as “a world-class launch site and a strategic national asset.”
“Today is a very important day for Accomack County and we look forward to the opportunity to welcome Rocket Lab,” said Michael Mason, Accomack County administrator. “Rocket Lab’s proposed plans would put the Commonwealth of Virginia and Accomack County in a position to be a leader in the aerospace launch and manufacturing industry.”
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Rocket Lab eyes Accomack County as possible site for expansion