Autumn 2016

For residents, companies and government authorities on the east coast of Virginia (United States), a rise in sea level and a hurricane are not simply something that may happen; they are a daily reality. This is where NASA’s Wallops Flight Center is located, which carries out costly space programmes. Thanks to TenCate Geotube® containment technology, the shoreline of Wallops Island can better withstand hurricanes and floods. 

Wallops Island is one of the islands off the coast of Virginia (US). Here the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA, the American space agency, has a complex for launching not only rockets particularly for its own reconnaissance missions, but also probes for commercial space flights. 

geosynthetics wallops island tubes

In addition to floods and hurricanes, sea level rise is a major challenge. These factors pose a threat to the Wallops Flight Facility, whose costs run into billions of dollars. Numerous measures have already been taken, but without sufficient result. 

In 2006 Hurricane Ernesto and the resulting tropical storms severely damaged the beaches and posed a threat to the adjacent launch pad. Civil engineers from NASA turned to TenCate for a site assessment. The outcome was an aggressive plan using TenCate Geotube® technology to rebuild the shore and protect it from further damage. Part of the solution was to install and fill 23 interconnected 70-metre-long tubes with slurry (sand brought in from off-site and mixed with salt water pumped from the ocean and fresh water from the river estuary). 

geosynthetics wallops island wave attack

A layer of geotextile was placed underneath the line of containers to provide extra stabilisation. The result was a barrier 1.5 kilometres long and 2 metres high – quite a challenge from the technical perspective but the project was completed in two months. The launch programme could proceed as planned.  The installation using TenCate Geotube® was actually a temporary measure and the intention was to protect the island with a barrier of coarser rock. 

geosynthetics wallops island nasa gov f85t92891

Although in 2011 a number of tubes were added and a few units damaged by rubble were replaced, the performance of the seawall proved to be excellent – even in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy struck. All the same, additional beach replenishment was needed to restore the system to project design levels.

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)