Space Commerce

Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Strategic Plan 2012 – 2017

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 16, 2012
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Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Strategic Plan 2012 – 2017
Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Strategic Plan

This Strategic Plan was developed in response to Chapters 779 and 817 of the 2012 Acts of Assembly, which requires the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Board of Directors to submit a strategic plan to the Governor and the General Assembly no later than December 1, 2012.
Full report, December 1, 2012

1.1 Purpose

This Strategic Plan (“the Plan”) was developed in response to Chapters 779 and 817 of the 2012 Acts of Assembly (HB 813/SB 284), which requires the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Board of Directors (the Board) to submit a strategic plan to the Governor and the General Assembly no later than December 1, 2012.

The Plan evaluates the current state of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA, or Authority), the industry landscape, the Authority’s competition, and available launch forecasts and trends. Building on these items, the Plan describes the strategic objectives and key actions for VCSFA for the 2012 to 2017 period. The strategic plan is an extension of the work accomplished in the report “Governance, Organization and Competitive Landscape Review of the Authority” conducted in December 2011 and serves as a foundation for accomplishing the Commonwealth’s priorities and the Authority’s objectives.

1.2 Overview

Sections 1 to 3 of the Plan assess the key drivers that may shape the future of VCSFA and the commercial space industry over the next five years. Selected key drivers impacting the strategic direction of VCSFA are highlighted below:

– Shift in National Space Policy – The National Space Policy calls for a new approach to space exploration and seeks partnerships with the private sector to enable commercial space flight opportunities. The new focus on space exploration at the federal level encourages education, technological and environmental research, and support of national security measures and promotes a competitive commercial space industry.

– Governance and Resource Enhancements – Based on the “Governance, Organization and Competitive Landscape Review,” the General Assembly passed the House Bill 813, which reconstituted the VCSFA Board of Directors (“Board”) and reduced the number of Board members from thirteen to nine, increased annual funding support for the Authority, and made several other changes to the administrative powers and duties of the Authority. House Bill 813 authorized $9.5 million in funding each year to VCSFA from the Transportation Trust Fund for operations, personnel, site maintenance and infrastructure. The funding is committed for the five years spanning FY2012 to FY2016.

– Commercial Launch Demand Forecast – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forecasts growth in the commercial space transportation and enabling industry (CST&EI) sector, as market demand for commercial space flight increases. The FAA and Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee forecast an average annual demand of approximately 29 commercial space launches for the 10 year period from 2012 through 2021.

– Economic Impact to the Commonwealth – Commercial space transportation, a sub segment of the aerospace industry, is an important component of Virginia’s economy. In 2009, the aerospace industry contributed a total economic impact of $7.6 billion and supported 28,110 jobs in the Commonwealth3. This accounted for 1.9% of Virginia total spending and industry jobs accounted for 0.8% of total employment. By these measures, the aerospace industry is more productive than the average industry in Virginia.

– Key Client Expansion – Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital) is among the ten largest U.S. space system and launch vehicle manufacturers with over 1,000 rockets, launch vehicles, and satellites built or under contract. 6 Orbital’s launch vehicles, satellites and space systems business sectors accounted for $483 million (36%), $554 million (41%), and $434 million (23%) in revenue respectively during 2011. The company has exhibited steady growth in recent years and successfully completed launches of eight sounding rockets, delivery of seven satellites and launch vehicles for future missions, and the completion of several construction and testing milestones in the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft programs in the U.S.

Orbital, which is ranked among the top 35 public companies in Virginia, has been headquartered in Virginia since 1983 and has expanded its Virginia-based employment from 6 to over 1,800 people. Company revenues for 2012 are expected to increase 12% over 2011 revenues. Orbital is currently in the process of readying its Antares space launch system for providing a broad range of launch services. The anchor contract for Antares is the Commercial Resupply Services to the International Space Station (ISS) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be launched out of Wallops. Such missions are planned to be flown through to the end of 2016.

– Thriving Commercial Space Industry and Competition – There are currently eight FAA licensed commercial launch site operators in six states: Virginia, California (2), Florida (2), Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Alaska. Each of these states, with the exception of California, have state-owned space authorities responsible for facilitating commercial space activity. Of the eight licensed operators, only four (Virginia, California, Florida, and Alaska) have spaceports that are currently licensed to launch small and medium lift rockets for sub-orbital or orbital slots, and these four are currently the main competitors in the U.S. commercial space launch market. While California, Florida, and Alaska offer services similar to VCSFA, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS,) which the Authority operates, is ideal for providing equatorial access for low earth orbit for small to medium size launches on the east coast. MARS also offers easier and more economical access to the International Space Station, an important consideration for commercial space companies serving NASA for ISS resupply missions. Given these advantages, MARS is an attractive spaceport for commercial space companies.

Full report, December 1, 2012

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.