Congress, States

Virginia 1, Florida 0

Outside of New Mexico, which is putting nearly $200 million of state and local money into a new commercial spaceport, no two states have been more active in space policy and related economic incentives than Florida and Virginia. For the last few months, the two states have also been competing against each other to win the launch business of Orbital Sciences Corporation, which was considering both Cape Canaveral and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island as the launch site for the Taurus 2, its planned medium-lift launch vehicle the company is developing as part of its COTS cargo system.

Yesterday, Orbital made its decision, picking MARS over the Cape, much to the glee of politicians in both Virginia and Maryland. The announcement merited a press release from the office of Virginia governor Tim Kaine (a person, incidentally, touted as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama), with quotes from a number of local officials in both Accomack County, where MARS is located, as well as Loudoun County, where Orbital is headquartered.

The announcement also triggered an enthusiastic press release from Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a supporter of government and commercial activity at Wallops (in part because many of the people who work there actually live across the border in Maryland.) How enthusiastic? “This is the biggest thing to hit the Eastern Shore since Captain John Smith’s anchor!”

The announcement triggered some soul-searching from Cape supporters, like Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL). Feeney thanked state officials, including Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, for putting together an incentive package to try and lure Orbital to the Cape. “Today’s disappointing announcement highlights Florida’s need to redouble our efforts to attract space business to Cape Canaveral.”

6 comments to Virginia 1, Florida 0

  • Pete Zaitcev

    The strange thing to me is just how few jobs are involved into the whole brouhaha. It looked as if they were talking relocation of Coca-Cola or AT&T.

  • Mr. Zaitcev: I think people are looking to the future in what they hope will become a major industry. Or, we’ve exported so many jobs and mismanaged our own economy so much that local officials are so despirate they’ll listen to any dream that just might lead to jobs. Or (most likely) both.

    — Donald

  • anonymouspace

    “The strange thing to me is just how few jobs are involved into the whole brouhaha. It looked as if they were talking relocation of Coca-Cola or AT&T.”

    Although small in number, they are high-wage/salary jobs, which are considerably more desirable to a local economy, at least on a one-for-one basis, than, say, the jobs at a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

    FWIW…

  • Al Fansome

    I thought this was a very interesting competition. If anybody has any insight on the comparative advantages of the two launch sites, what they were offering Orbital, and any other differentiators, please share.

    Florida had a lot of infrastructure that Orbital (or MARS) will need to build at MARS, plus a slightly better inclination.

    MARS had less regulatory burden, plus Barbara Mikulski.

    I have to believe they both were offering significant incentives. Space Florida offered SpaceHab a major financial incentive during COTS (in the form of guaranteed debt financing). Does anybody know what either state (if not both states) offered Orbital?

    – Al

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