Profile: Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Image (Credit): Rocket being launched from Virginia’s spaceport. (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport)

When you think of NASA space launches you most likely think of Cape Canaveral in Florida, but what about Virginia? The Eastern Shore of Virginia hosts the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), which is currently being used for resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Created by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1995 at the site of a World War II Navy air station, it is the only other official spaceport on the east coast.

Northrup Grumman has been using the site for various missions, including resupplying the ISS as well as other federal payloads. Orbital Sciences Corporation (now part of Northrup Grumman) launched NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission from the site in 2013. In addition, last year Rocket Lab announced it planned to use MARS for launches of its new reusable Neutron rockets.

In February 2022, Northrop Grumman successfully launched its 17th ISS resupply rocket from the spaceport. The Cygnus space freighter carried needed supplies to the astronauts conducting research in orbit. The freighter will also be used to “boost” the ISS, or adjust its orbit, as noted by NASA:

This Cygnus mission is the first to feature enhanced capabilities that will allow the spacecraft to perform a reboost, using its engines to adjust the space station’s orbit as a standard service for NASA. The agency has one reboost is planned while Cygnus is connected to the orbiting laboratory. A test of the maneuver was performed in 2018 during Cygnus’ ninth resupply mission.

You may recall that such boosting is something the Russian’s claimed earlier could not occur if they abandoned the space station. Fortunately, NASA has other rocket options should they be needed. Moreover, we have additional spaceports to keep our astronauts in the sky and well supplied.

Image (Credit): Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments before its capture with the International Space Stations’s robotic arm in February of 2021. (NASA)

Extra: Below is a map showing the location of MARS on the Wallop Islands. The address of the facility is 7414 Atlantic Rd, Wallops Island, VA 23337.

Image (Credit): Location of MARS on the Virginia shore. (Google Maps)