19 December 2008
- Tourism (Good)
Waiting in the Wings
Spaceport America receives FAA approval
by G B Leatherwood
This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Spaceport America’s environmental impact statement, and even more important, the launch site operator’s license. These two steps are needed to turn the temporary launch facility into the United State’s first spaceport specifically designed for the space tourism industry.

After the New Mexico legislature receives a signed lease agreement from at least one tenant, it will release the funding package to finance the spaceport’s construction. ( Virgin Galactic will likely sign the agreement before the end of 2008.)

Space Future Journal asked David Wilson, spokesperson for Spaceport America, about the future of Spaceport America.

Space Future Journal: Now that Spaceport America has received two out of the three pieces it needs to operate, and the third is expected by the end of December, what is the next step?

Wilson: We[‘ve] announced that Gerald Martin Construction of Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be the contractor [to] build the spaceport. Martin will oversee the building out of the different parts of the spaceport construction in the first quarter of 2009. The groundbreaking for spaceport construction now looks like the end of March or early April.

SFJ: From whom is the New Mexico legislature receiving the funding?

Wilson: The state of New Mexico will fund the spaceport construction through the issuing of bonds.

SFJ: We have already reported that the tax referendum did not pass in Otero County, New Mexico. When is the next time you will get a chance to make your case to the voters there?

Wilson: No plans at this time to go back to Otero County.

SFJ: What other counties are you working with for similar funding?

Wilson: Some individuals in Socorro and Chavez counties have expressed an interest in joining the spaceport tax district. Next year the New Mexico Space Authority (NMSA) will begin to engage leaders in these counties in discussions regarding what the benefits of joining the spaceport tax district may be for them.

SFJ: Although Virgin Galactic is to be the first, and probably the most famous at the moment, what other space tourism operators have expressed interest in locating at Spaceport America?

Wilson: The new Armadillo Aerospace/Rocket Racing Inc. joint venture announced this past October during the X-Prize Lunar Landing Challenge in Las Cruces [New Mexico], will use Spaceport America as the base of operations for their research and development and eventually vertical space tourism launches.

SFJ: This is probably obvious, but what is the mood around your place today?

Wilson: Everyone is very upbeat. The NMSA staff is so busy right now I don’t think anyone has had time to really take everything in. The finishing touches are being put on the hangar terminal design, the Virgin Galactic lease agreement is being wrapped up, and one of the really exciting events happening hopefully in the next few days will be the first flight of the Scaled Composites/ Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo in Mojave, CA.

I guess I would have to sum it all up by saying, “What a year for commercial aerospace in New Mexico.”
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G B Leatherwood 19 December 2008
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