Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell visits NASA Wallops amid feud with Florida

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a break Monday from back-to-back energy conferences in Richmond to visit the Eastern Shore.

His destination: NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

Interesting timing considering Virginia officials are feuding with Florida’s aerospace industry over the role Wallops will play in future human spaceflight missions.

Sunshine State leaders say they are worried that NASA may duplicate services by launching manned space missions from Wallops.

NASA Wallops officials counter that the agency is simply studying all aspects of future expansion — that no astronaut launches are planned from Wallops.

The Virginia General Assembly in recent years has passed a slew of business-friendly laws designed to entice aerospace corporations to Wallops, which is overseen by NASA Goddard Space Center in Maryland.

So far, it has landed one big fish: Orbital Sciences Corp. The Northern Virginia-based company stunned Florida officials in 2008 when it chose Wallops instead of Cape Canaveral to launch rockets that will carry cargo to the International Space Station.

The $2 billion contract Orbital landed with NASA sparked millions of dollars of investment at Wallops and nearby Mid-Atlantic Spaceport. It seems to have also sparked fears in Florida, home of the nation’s Space Coast.

McDonnell has said he wants to make the spaceport tops in the nation and called for a 10-fold increase in funding, according to a statement issued Monday.

McDonnell will be back in Richmond on Tuesday, where he is scheduled to give the keynote address during the second annual governor’s conference on energy. The event follows the Southern States Energy Board meeting.

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World