This week, astronauts are unloading more than 5,000 pounds of cargo and crew supplies from the Cygnus spacecraft to support dozens of science and research investigations. However, this shipment has special significance. This shipment arrived via an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Rocket launches to the International Space Station from Virginia are back. Teams from Orbital ATK, Virginia Space and NASA have worked diligently to bring about the launch following an Antares launch failure in October 2014.  Since that date, repairs and upgrades to the launch pad have been completed and the Antares rocket has been upgraded.

“I’m extremely proud of the combined NASA, Orbital ATK and Virginia Space team for their tenacity in restoring a medium-lift launch capability at Wallops,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops Flight Facility director. “Antares returned to flight brilliantly, and we are looking forward to many more flights in the months and years to come.”

In addition, Wallops Flight Facility is responsible for public safety, tracking, telemetry, communications and institutional support, and spent countless hours to make sure that the range was ready to support the launch.

“Watching the Antares rocket launch Cygnus into orbit from our home port at Wallops Island was a culmination of nearly two years of hard work by our employees, suppliers and our NASA partners,” said Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK Space System Group President. “Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the job well done.”

The Antares launch from Wallops also was a boost to the local economy with the influx of those wishing to see the launch, national and international media reporting on the mission, and Orbital ATK, NASA and Virginia Space members coming to the Shore to support the flight.

This positive impact to the local economy was definitely seen in the Town of Chincoteague, the location of the town closest to Wallops with a variety of restaurants and lodging facilities.

“We are delighted to see the Antares program return to flight. Increased calls to the chamber office in the last couple of weeks in anticipation of the October 17 launch verify that folks were excited to watch the next re-supply mission leave from Wallops Flight Facility,“ said Evelyn Shotwell, executive director of the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce..

The spectacular night launch has been the talk of the town as visitors and team members continue celebrate the successful launch. The light from the rocket’s engine flames spreads across Wallops Island and reflected over the surrounding water and marsh as the Antares rocket rose from the launch pad. Spectators continue to trade stories of how they stood in awe at the view and felt the rumble as the rocket flew toward space.

“This influx of visitors are a vital component of our shoulder season economy and the year round work force of government contractors stimulates restaurant, lodging, and recreational businesses in Chincoteague and the surrounding area.” Shotwell said.

The launch of the Antares rocket is not a one-time event, and preparations are already underway for the next Antares launch in the first quarter of 2017.

Keith Koehler
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

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