Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB), a global leader in launch services and space systems, has selected Wallops Island, Virginia in Accomack County as the location for its launch site and extensive manufacturing and operations facilities for its Neutron rocket, which is expected to create up to 250 new jobs.
Rocket Lab will launch the Neutron from a new Virginia Space owned launch pad that will be located within the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The 250,000-square-foot state-of-the-art complex will be constructed on a 28-acre site adjacent to the Wallops Island Flight Facility, which was purchased by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority in 2021. Up to 250 engineers, technicians, and support staff may be stationed at the complex.
This new manufacturing complex for the Neutron will be located within proximity of Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2, the company’s first launch site in the United States. It was built specifically for the Electron rocket, the second-most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually since 2019.
“Virginia’s industrial and innovation ecosystem and skilled workforce make the Commonwealth an optimal location for industry leaders like Rocket Lab,” said Governor Youngkin. “This important project reinforces the Eastern Shore’s legacy as an aerospace hub that offers the infrastructure for manufacturing and developing new technologies, and we look forward to a long partnership with Rocket Lab.”
“Wallops Island is a prime site for aerospace and aviation operations, and it is an honor to officially welcome Rocket Lab to the Eastern Shore of Virginia,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “The Commonwealth has a strong aerospace and unmanned systems industry workforce, which is forecast to grow 8.5% over the next decade, and is well-positioned to provide the skilled talent that Rocket Lab will require for its Neutron launch site, manufacturing, and operations.”
“Neutron is a new generation of rocket that will advance the way space is accessed, and Virginia makes perfect sense as Neutron’s home base,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Its position on the eastern seaboard is the ideal location to support both Neutron’s frequent launch cadence and the rocket’s return-to-Earth capability of landing back at its launch site after lift-off; and as one of only four states in the United States with an FAA spaceport license for missions to Earth orbit or on interplanetary trajectories, Virginia is home to an active and experienced aerospace workforce we can pull from to support Neutron’s development and launch. I’m thankful for the Commonwealth’s enthusiasm and backing of Neutron which, combined with the state’s rich heritage as an aerospace state, made it difficult to see anywhere else but Virginia as Neutron’s future home.”
“General Ted Mercer and his team at Virginia Space are the best in the business. This commitment from Rocket Lab is further testament to the quality of personnel and facilities the Commonwealth has developed at Wallops Island,” said Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller. “We are excited to welcome Rocket Lab to Virginia, and look forward to future developments in the aerospace industry that will bring engineers, technicians, and families to the Eastern Shore.”
“Rocket Lab’s new manufacturing and launch facilities in Accomack County represent a tremendous win for the region and the Commonwealth, building on the Eastern Shore’s rich history in the aerospace sector,” said Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission Chair Senator Janet Howell. “We are pleased that the company recognized Virginia as the optimal location for this important project, and are proud the MEI Commission could play a role.”
“Rocket Lab is a significant addition to Virginia’s booming aerospace sector, and I am pleased the MEI Commission could collaborate with our state, regional, and local partners on this important project to get it across the finish line,” said Delegate Barry Knight, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “The addition of 250 new jobs is transformational for the Eastern Shore of Virginia, which has emerged as a hub for aerospace and aviation operations.”
“Virginia Space will continue our already outstanding relationship with a premiere company like Rocket Lab,” said Major General Ted Mercer, USAF (ret), CEO and Executive Director, Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. “We were able to leverage our existing world-class assets and the significant investment the Commonwealth has made at MARS to enhance our capability, which was instrumental in convincing Rocket Lab to expand their operations and bring a new mission to Virginia. This is a win-win for Rocket Lab, the Commonwealth, and our nation!”
“On behalf of Accomack County, I want to thank Rocket Lab for selecting the County as the location to manufacture and launch the Neutron Rocket,” said Accomack Board of Supervisors Chairman Billy Joe Tarr. “This is a tremendous opportunity for all involved and a huge economic boost for Accomack County. We look forward to watching Electron and Neutron Rocket launches from Virginia Space’s MARS Facility on Wallops Island.”
“Rocket Lab’s launch and major manufacturing complex in Accomack County is an exciting opportunity that will bring 250 good-paying jobs to the Eastern Shore and advance Coastal Virginia’s position as a national leader in the space industry,” said Representative Elaine G. Luria. “I am proud to support initiatives that create economic opportunities and expand the Commonwealth’s role in the space industry.”
“Rocket Lab’s official decision to establish its Neutron Production and Launch Complex operation in Accomack County is a game changer for the Eastern Shore and the Commonwealth,” said Senator Lynwood Lewis. “We are thrilled that Virginia was selected for this expansion, which will spur even more economic activity, and look forward to building a lasting partnership with this industry-leading company.”
“Rocket Lab’s selection of Virginia for this major project is a tremendous win, and I appreciate the hard work by all sides,” said Delegate Robert Bloxom. “Rocket Lab is a welcome addition to Virginia Space and Accomack County, and I am confident the great workforce and infrastructure offered by NASA Wallops Flight Facility helped the company make its decision to expand on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.”
Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. The company delivers reliable launch services, spacecraft components, satellites, other spacecraft as well as on-orbit management solutions that make it faster, easier, and more affordable to access space. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle and the Photon satellite platform and is developing the Neutron 8-ton payload class launch vehicle. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered 109 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the Moon and Mars as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Accomack County, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space), and the General Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Project Approval Commission to secure the project for the Commonwealth.
Subject to approval by the General Assembly, the Commonwealth will support the project through a $30 million appropriation to Virginia Space for the infrastructure and operational systems. These improvements to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport will enhance the capabilities of the Spaceport to support existing programs and provide access for new customers like Rocket Lab. In addition, the MEI Project Approval Commission approved an investment of up to $15 million to support site improvements and construction of a building to be owned by Virginia Space and leased to Rocket Lab.
Support for Rocket Lab’s job creation will be provided through the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership in collaboration with the Virginia Community College System and other higher education partners, with funding support from the Governor’s administration and the Virginia General Assembly. Launched in 2019, the program accelerates new facility start-ups through the direct delivery of recruitment and training services that are fully customized to a company’s unique products, processes, equipment, standards, and culture. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified, new, and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation.
Rocket Lab is currently working with NASA to secure all necessary agreements and certifications for launches from Wallops Island.
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Space owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the MARS Unmanned Systems Test Range, the MARS Payload Processing Facility, and the Integration and Control Facility in Wallops Research Park. Collocated on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the mission of Virginia Space and MARS is to provide low-cost, safe, reliable, “schedule-friendly” access to space and secure facilities for testing of unmanned vehicles for integration into the National Air Space. Virginia continues to play a key role in national security and assured access to space, as one of only four states in the United States hosting a spaceport licensed by the FAA to launch spacecraft into orbit or on interplanetary trajectories. For more information, visit www.vaspace.org.