Calif. aerospace company proposes Accomack County facility

Rocket Lab USA Inc. wants facility to support launches from NASA Wallops Flight Facility

Accomack County is a finalist for a proposed Rocket Lab USA Inc. facility, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday.

If the county is selected, Long Beach, California-based aerospace company Rocket Lab would develop a facility to support part production, assembly, integration and test operations to support the launch of its Neutron launch vehicle from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Rocket Lab would expand to two launch pads on Wallops Island — one to support the company’s Electron launch vehicle and one to support the Neutron.

Rocket Lab announced the Neutron rocket in March 2021 and expects it to be operational in late 2024. The rocket is designed to deliver an 8-ton payload to low Earth orbit and might ultimately support human spaceflight.

“Wallops Island is one of just four major launch sites in the United States — and the only one located in the country’s best state for business. I’m so proud of the work our Virginia team has done to get to this final step. I challenge everyone on the commonwealth’s team, and everyone at Rocket Lab, to get this project over the finish line — and propel Rocket Lab and Virginia’s Eastern Shore to new heights,” Northam said in a statement.

Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company that delivers launch services, spacecraft components, satellites and other spacecraft and on-orbit management. Rocket Lab manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle, which has delivered 109 satellites to orbit since January 2018, and the Photon satellite platform, which NASA has selected to support missions to the moon and to Mars, and which will support the first private commercial mission to Venus.

Rocket Lab is currently working with NASA to secure the necessary agreements and certifications for launches from Wallops Island.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Accomack County, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and the General Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission to secure funding for the proposed project. The new facility would be constructed on a 28-acre site near the Wallops Island Flight Facility purchased by Virginia Space in 2021.

The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by the VEDP and Virginia Community College System, would provide customizable recruitment and training services at no cost to the company.