Photo Courtesy of Wallops Island

Most people are unaware there are more NASA launch sites other than Cape Carnaveral. But listed as the newest one is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Delmarva Peninsula, Virginia which is located on Wallops Island in conjunction with NASA’s Goddard Space Center. (Most of you know, Wallops Island is just south of Chincoteague)..

Wallops Island was our nations first space launch site. It was established in 1945 by the Langley Research Center as a pilotless aircraft research station. It was incorporated by NASA in 1959. It has always been the small boy of the three launch sites. In the initial days, is was in hot contestation against Cape Canaveral for the becoming the main launch site. The difference in winter temperatures decided the issue.

As an aside Delawareans should be interested to note, that the first seven Nazi rocket technicians of arrived in the United States at New Castle Army Air Field, just south of Wilmington, Delaware, on September 20, 1945. They were then flown to Boston and taken by boat to the Army Intelligence Service post at Fort Strong in Boston Harbor. Later, with the exception of von Braun, the men were transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to sort out the Peenemünde (the Nazi Rocket base) documents, enabling the scientists to continue their rocketry experiments.

In 1998, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, later joined by Maryland, built the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops on land leased from NASA. In December 2006, the facility made its first launch. It was from here yesterday’s successful launch occurred…. The launch sets the stage for a second company to begin resupply missions to the International Space Station.

California-based SpaceX became the first private firm to officially resupply the ISS last October. Its Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida carrying a Dragon capsule filled with cargo and science experiments. Today, Antares, built by spaceflight company Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Virginia, lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, at 22.00 GMT (Sunday, April 21, 5 pm)..

This was just a test carrying a dummy payload corresponding to the weight and proportions of its Cygnus payload. But while Dragon can return from its missions loaded with cargo, no Cygnus craft will ever make it back to Earth. These craft will leave the ISS filled with trash and will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The next test is in June, and if all goes well, 8 flights have been contracted to occur over the next 3 years.

Unfortunately even though it is only 130 miles south, it cannot be seen from Delaware during the day, nor heard. However 21 minutes after launch a very low level rumbling of distant sonic booms were alleged to have been heard here in Northern Delaware.

But, of all places… Sleepy Delmarva. How cool is that?