12 February 2004
News - Tourism (Good)
Pioneer Team Sign Deal with Oklahoma Spaceport
Aim to fly to space in 2006
by Patrick Collins
In a characteristically stimulating presentation at the session on Space Tourism of the Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF-2004) on Monday February 9, Chuck Lauer, Vice President for Business Development at Pioneer Rocketplane Inc, confirmed that the company had finalised an agreement with Spaceport Oklahoma (officially OSIDA, the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority) to develop the passenger-carrying XP Rocketplane, which will be capable of sub-orbital flights, at Burns Flat in Oklahoma. The XP is an adapted Learjet, with a rocket engine being developed by Orbitec Inc. It is not primarily targeting the “X Prize” but the sub-orbital passenger market, including tourism. “But if no-one else has won the X-Prize by 2006, then we will” Lauer said.

After several years of negotiations and preparation, the path-breaking deal was finalised on December 31, and announced in the Oklahoma State Senate on January 9:

“Under the direction of Rocketplane Limited’s officers and Board of Directors, including Gen. Merrill McPeak, Dr. James Stuart, Dr. William Byrd, Dr. Eric Rice, George French, Mitchell Burnside Clapp, David Urie and Charles Lauer, the company hopes to commence flights in September of 2006.

OSIDA Chairman Gen. Ken McGill said: “The leaders of Rocketplane Limited have exhibited tenacity, creativity and a belief in Oklahoma’s role as an aerospace leader. At OSIDA, we feel confident that this company’s presence at the Oklahoma Spaceport gives us a big advantage in meeting our goals of job creation in the aerospace industry.”

“This is a great opportunity for Oklahoma to embark on a new business frontier which will continue to solidify Oklahoma’s role as a leader in the aerospace industry as well as create new and exciting opportunities for all Oklahomans,” said OSIDA Deputy Director Bill Khourie.

Governor Brad Henry congratulated Rocketplane Limited officials and Capps on the announcement: "This is exciting news for all of Oklahoma. This announcement is further proof of our state's dynamic and always-growing aviation and aerospace industry.”

For more details, see the press release at: www.oksenate.gov/news/press_releases/press_releases_2004/pr20040109.html
The Oklahoma state government team deserve warm applause. This is just the kind of innovation that will help to break the log-jam caused by the 30-year resistance of central governments’ monopoly space agencies to space tourism; we look forward to more such initiatives in the United States and elsewhere.

It is excellent news that another company has joined Scaled Composites Inc in being able to start actively developing a passenger space vehicle. Space Future wishes them the greatest success. Since it’s still recent news, it’s not yet up on Pioneer’s Web site. But they're now recruiting – so anyone who wants to work on one of the first passenger-carrying space vehicles (and such fascinating [and historic] opportunities don't arise very often) give them a call! They’re sure to be picking from the best.
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Patrick Collins 12 February 2004
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