The Antares rocket that launched from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island on October 28 barely made it past the launch tower. The dramatic destruction of the rocket, so close to the ground, damaged Pad OA.
It’s not the first setback for efforts to develop a commercial space launch business there.
Starting in 1995, Virginia decided to build a spaceport to subsidize a new industry, commercial launches into space. That same year, the first commercial launch ended in failure when a Conestoga rocket was destroyed 10 miles into the climb to orbit.
Wallops recovered. In 2004, Virgina agreed to partner with Maryland, and the Virginia Space Flight Center was renamed the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). In 2013, Orbital Sciences Corporation started launching Antares rockets into orbit, and NASA launched a mission to the moon from the island.
Virginia has no other feasible location for a spaceport, and Orbital builds its spacecraft near Dulles airport. Assuming Orbital resumes resupply missions to the International Space Station, it is likely to return to Wallops.
For more, see Space: The Final Frontier.