WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are urging Congress to fully fund upgrades and investments in Wallops Flight Facility. Wallops Flight Facility, located just south of Maryland’s border with Virginia, plays a crucial role in both National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Defense missions. Wallops employs over 500 Marylanders. This funding would build on the $15 million that Senators Van Hollen and Cardin secured for Wallops in the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus. Wallops recently served as the launch point for the return-to-flight mission of the Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station.

In letters to Appropriations Committee leadership, the Senators urge their support, noting that Wallops is“NASA’s only space launch range” and “serves a critical role in launching cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.” Additionally, they stress that“non-federal spaceports play an important role in providing additional launch capability and resiliency for national security missions.”Furthermore, the Senators state,“We believe this small investment from the Committee will help ensure a robust launch infrastructure that will strengthen our security and ensure that the Department of Defense benefits from increased launch options and resiliency in case of catastrophe or need for rapid re-constitution.”

In the two letters, the Senators called for funding of no less than $10 million to support crucial launch range improvements and other institutional construction projects. One of the letters has been sent to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the other to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

Senators Cardin and Van Hollen were joined in signing the letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense by Senators Sullivan (R-Alaska), Coons (D-Del.), Carper (D-Del.), Kaine (D-Va.) and Warner (D-Va.). Senators Cardin and Van Hollen were joined in signing the letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies by Senators Coons (D-Del.), Carper (D-Del.), and Warner (D-Va.).

The letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense can befound hereand below.

The letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies can befound hereand below.

Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Durbin:

We write to share our strong support for the continuation of funding that was included in the FY 2015, FY 2017 and FY 2018 Omnibus spending bills to support security and infrastructure upgrades for non-federal spaceports that launch Defense Department missions, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the Eastern Shore as well as the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. These non-federal spaceports play an important role in providing additional launch capability and resiliency for national security missions.

We were very pleased that the committee provided $10 million in the final FY 2018 Omnibus and we urge you to maintain this funding level under the Rocket Systems Launch Program (SPACE) account in your FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill to support defense launch needs at state spaceports, which are key assets in the U.S. national launch infrastructure. These two state spaceports — which are largely maintained and operated at no expense to the federal government — have provided alternate launch sites on both the East and West Coasts of the United States which help ensure the resiliency of the national launch infrastructure.

As you may know, funding for this program, Space Launch Range Services and Capability account, was originally included in the FY 2015 Omnibus to support security and infrastructure upgrades to two state spaceports that support defense launch, the MARS at Wallops Flight Facility and the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) at Kodiak Island, Alaska. Recognizing the progress made with the FY15 funds, Congress again funded this account in the final FY 2017 and FY 2018 appropriations laws.

We respectfully request that the Committee maintain the $10 million funding level that was provided in the FY 2018 Omnibus and include the following report language for the Space Launch Range Services and Capability account:

Space Launch Range Services and Capability —The committee recognizes the importance of State-owned spaceports and launch and range complexes that support defense space priorities. The Committee believes increasing the capability and number of launch facilities helps to ensure our Nation’s ability to launch priority space assets. Therefore, to promote national security launch capabilities, $10,000,000 is provided to State-owned spaceports or launch and range complexes that are commercially licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. These funds shall be used to enhance the capability of these spaceports to provide mid-to-low inclination orbits or polar-to-high inclination orbits in support of the defense space program.”

We believe this small investment from the Committee will help ensure a robust launch infrastructure that will strengthen our security and ensure that the Department of Defense benefits from increased launch options and resiliency in case of catastrophe or need for rapid re-constitution. We urge you to include this funding and report language in your FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

Dear Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Shaheen:

We write to share our strong support for continued funding and report language in your FY 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill to support upgrades to and investments in NASA’s only space launch range, located at the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), which serves a critical role in launching cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). We appreciate your support for Wallops range upgrade funding in the FY 2018 Omnibus, which continued longstanding Congressional support for this program.

For several years, the Committee has included funding and report language through the 21stCentury Launch Complex program to ensure the range at WFF doesn’t fall behind the capabilities funded by the Department of Defense at the Eastern and Western Ranges in Florida and California. Unfortunately, NASA has no similar program to ensure institutional investment in its own launch range, so your continued support for the WFF launch range has been critical to ensuring the agency provides a level of investment each year to ensure its range remains up-to-date and ready to support a variety of NASA and other missions. The committee’s support for this account over the last several years has been instrumental to improving launch infrastructure at WFF, but it is our understanding that there are more $65 million in unfunded improvement projects in need of funding to ensure a steady pace of launch range and capability upgrades on par with the Eastern Range.

As you work to develop your FY 2019 bill, we urge you to continue the Omnibus funding and report language, whether as part of the 21stCentury Launch Complex Program or in another account, that directs that no less than $10 million to WFF for launch range improvements in addition to any other institutional construction projects already requested in the budget, such as a long overdue project to restore the eroded shoreline at Wallops.

Specifically, we urge you to include the following report language in your FY 2019 report, whether as part of the 21stCentury Launch Complex Program or as part of another program designed to provide an annual investment in launch range infrastructure at NASA’s only launch range:

The Committee notes that maintaining multiple launch sites contributes to assured access to the ISS in case of natural disaster, national security event, or launch accident. The program’s authorized purposes include projects at all NASA-owned launch facilities. As such, the Committee directs no less than $10 million be directed toward filling critical maintenance, capacity, and range safety gaps at the Wallops Flight Facility launch complex, and further directs NASA to take into consideration the full potential of all NASA-owned launch complexes and its space launch range.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, as well as your continued support for improving NASA’s launch infrastructure to support the ISS mission. This is a top priority for NASA Wallops and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, which recently launched the return-to-flight mission of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the ISS, and will continue to support this mission through at least the end of the CRS-2 contract in 2024.

Sincerely,