NASA Employees Back to Work

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By Linda Cicoira — Hundreds of workers went back to their jobs Monday at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and are being paid for the several weeks they were furloughed.

The federal shutdown didn’t stop Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport from making a presentation to the General Assembly last month. A post on the agency’s website asks, “Do you want to send a satellite to space?! Virginia Space, in partnership with Twiggs Space Lab, Orbital ATK, and NASA Wallops Flight Facility, has created a low cost, short term program that will increase student engagement and interest in … STEM-related fields. This will be achieved by using the ThinSat, a small satellite capable of transmitting data from low earth orbit.” 

The program “sets a new standard for STEM-related academics in the space industry,” according to the website. “Students from middle school to the university level will develop satellite hardware, test sensor components with low and high altitude balloon flights, analyze data, and launch an actual payload into space.”

The Army Corps of Engineers in the Norfolk District, in partnership with WFF, conducted a renourishment industry day in mid-December 2018 when contractors could come to the site and get answers to their questions regarding the proposed dredging and excavating at Wallops Island aimed at reducing potential storm damage or loss to assets of the NASA, the Navy, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The job would involve using about 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from a borrow site at the north end of Wallops Island. The sand would be placed along about 19,850 feet of shoreline. The total project site is 153 acres and involves dredging 37,515 cubic yards of sand. There would be an impact to 31 acres seaward of mean high water. 

“About 140 acres of subaqueous bottom seaward of mean high water will be involved … All the material from the borrow site is suitable to be placed on the beach,” an answer sheet stated.

The nesting season for the sea turtles within the breakwater construction and beach fill areas is April 1 to Nov. 30. For piping plovers, it is March 15 to Sept. 1. “No equipment or equipment staging shall be conducted on the nesting habitat area outside Sept. 1 to March 15 without prior written approval from the Wallops Environmental Office. A draft launch schedule will be provided during solicitation so that the potential contractor can capture that time in his bid. Equipment can remain on the shoreline in the borrow area out of nesting season.”

The original project was done in 2012. Post-Hurricane Sandy work was performed in 2014. The dunes will be planted. A date has not been set for the next activity, a visit by the bidders.