Work to repair a Virginia-owned launch pad damaged by an Orbital ATK rocket explosion is about to halt amid a debate about who should pick up the bill, according to officials in the dispute.
The Oct. 28, 2014, accident at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located on Wallops Island, Virginia, caused about $20 million in damages to the state-owned launch pad. Orbital was launching its third Antares rocket for NASA under a $1.9 billion contract to fly cargo to the International Space Station.
Orbital had insurance to cover its losses at Wallops, as well as damage to federal property and other entities as required by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial launches in the United States. That insurance, however, does not cover the MARS pad owned by Virginia, according to spokespeople for the company and the FAA.
"We looked at insurance for the pad, but the coverage was inadequate to our needs, and to the extent it was available, was exorbitantly costly," MARS Executive Director Dale Nash wrote in an email.
To cover the repair costs, Virginia has turned to taxpayers, successfully lobbying for a $20 million addition to NASA's 2015 budget as part of the Omnibus spending bill Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed in December.
Those funds, however, have not yet been released, said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel.