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The facilities at the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility launch area are receiving vital protection through the construction of an expanded seawall and widened beach. Construction will push the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to at least 82 feet away rather than only a couple of feet.

The facilities at the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility launch area are receiving vital protection through the construction of an expanded seawall and widened beach. Construction will push the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to at least 82 feet away rather than only a couple of feet. (Photo by Patrick J. Hendrickson)

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Posted 4/18/2012

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By Patrick Bloodgood
Norfolk District


WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — Sand and stone will provide better protection for rocket launch pads, as well as Commonwealth of Virginia and Navy facilities located on Virginia's Eastern Shore from the advancing Atlantic Ocean.

The construction of a 14-foot-high seawall, as well as a widened beach, at NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility's launch range will help slow erosion along the island that has seen the sea advance approximately 8 to 11 feet per year in recent decades.

The seawall, completed last month, extended the existing wall by 1420 feet, and protects launch pads from being washed away.

The beach fill portion, which began earlier this month, involves three dredges working simultaneously to add additional beachfront pushing the lapping waves of the ocean at least 82 feet further away from vital infrastructure rather than just a few feet.

"After the years of conceptual design, coastal modeling, environmental evaluations and permitting the Norfolk District is just as excited as our Wallops Island Flight Facility project counterparts " said George Mears, the Norfolk District project manager overseeing the construction.

Approximately 3.2 million cubic feet of beach quality sand will be pumped and placed on shore along 19,700 feet of oceanfront along the island's southeastern side.

The new beach will offer a 14-foot -high dune behind a 6-foot-high berm that will gradually descend in elevation to the ocean giving the launch range a 130-foot-wide beach to absorb the constant pounding of surf, especially during coastal storms.

The Wallops Island facility is home to, not only NASA, but also the US Navy Surface Combat Systems Center and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport making this a growing economic generator for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the region.

In his State of the Commonwealth speech, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell noted his vision for expanding the commercial space industry at the facility, something that would not be able to happen if Mother Nature continues to erode the island away and compromisinge the facilities located on site.

The project will allow the facility to continue safe launch operations for years to come, something that is vital to the nation, the Commonwealth, and the growing economy in the area.

"There is a bright and busy future for NASA, MARS and US Navy missions on Wallops Island. This project and the adaptive management and maintenance of this investment is essential to protect the ongoing health and future growth potential of those missions so unique to the Nations' science, spaceflight, and national defense objectives and regional economic development opportunities," said Caroline Massey, Assistant Director for Management Operations at NASA Wallops.

Current construction of the new beach is expected to last until late July of this year.