The failed launch and fiery explosion at the Wallops Island spaceport could blow up Virginia’s projected financial windfall at the commercial site.

The state invested $26 million in 2009 to bring privately operated space flights to the Eastern Shore.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was estimated to generate $4.25 billion for Virginia’s economy through 2020. After the explosion Tuesday night, the short-term outlook isn’t so rosy.

“The complex is pretty much toasted. It was like a tactical nuclear warhead going off,” said Keith Cowing, who edits

The question is: Who will pay for the massive repairs, the environmental cleanup and the $200 million in lost cargo and equipment bound for the International Space Station?

The rocket company, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., isn’t saying.

“Something went wrong and we will find out what that is. And we will determine the root cause, and we will correct that and come fly back at Wallops again,” said the company’s executive vice president, Frank Culbertson.  No casualties were reported.

Early speculation blames Orbital’s use of a 40-year-old Soviet rocket engine. Experts caution that other problems could have triggered the explosion that occurred six seconds after liftoff.

Neither the company nor NASA nor the state would speculate about the cost of restoring the Wallops site, or who would foot the bill.