The Antares rocket that lifted off Wednesday carrying Orbital’s first Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS might be the biggest booster to launch from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, but arguably the spaceport’s biggest booster is Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who has long been a major advocate for the Wallops Island launch site. “Today is a victory for space science and jobs!” she declared in a press release after the successful launch. “Today’s launch is possible because of the close partnership between federal and state agencies along with the private sector at Wallops Island working to create jobs today and jobs tomorrow.” To accentuate her support, the release includes a photo of her watching the launch on a television on her office, with a model of Antares next to the TV. For good measure, her fingers are crossed as the rocket lifts off.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also issued a statement about the launch that included a photo of him watching the launch on TV—in this case, with his hands on his hips, his fingers uncrossed. “This is a great milestone in our efforts to build out a commercial spaceflight industry at Wallops that leverages Virginia’s incredible talent pool and world-class launch facilities at Wallops Island,” he said in the statement.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee in the House that funds NASA, also weighed in. “Today’s Cygnus launch is a signal of immense progress for American commercial spaceflight,” he said in the statement. “This demonstration mission is a further testament of NASA’s commitment to growing and strengthening its ties with the commercial spaceflight industry in order to remain a world leader in space exploration.”
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) saw the launch as a sign of his state’s growing competitiveness in the commercial space industry. “In just over a week, Virginia has witnessed two historic launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport,” he said in a statement, referring to the Minotaur V launch of NASA’s LADEE lunar mission, also from Wallops but not, strictly speaking, a commercial launch. “These historic launches are sure to put Virginia on the map as a leader in space exploration. We are well on our way to making Wallops Island the top commercial spaceport in the country.” Heads up, Florida.