View Full Version : New Mexico Considering Legislation To Sell Spaceport America

02-21-2015, 01:56 PM
Without government who would build the space ports?

The New Mexico legislature is currently considering legislation that would result in the sale of its Spaceport America. The bill, SB 267, moved from the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee to the Senate Finance Committee in a vote yesterday. No hearing date on the legislation has been scheduled in the Finance Committee as of this writing.

The legislation is sponsored by Senator George K. Muņoz, who didn’t mince any words in a statement regarding the legislation.

“Spaceport has one launch director. He probably plowed a lot of snow but he’s never hit a launch button,” he told the Committee.

The spaceport opened to a great deal of fanfare in 2011 with an eye to being a hub for space startups and tourism. SpaceX leases space there to conduct tests of its reusable rocket designs, and other small space startups like Armadillo Aerospace and UP Aerospace have conducted test flights at the facility.

The main draw for the spaceport, though, is its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, which plans to use the site for its tourist operations. However, the past few years have seen continuous delays in Virgin’s plans to get its space tourism operations off the ground. Those operations have been delayed even further by the the crash of its SpaceShipTwo last Fall.

“There was a lot of hoopla before that if ‘We build it, they will come,’ but it’s been several years now and nobody’s shown up yet,” Muņoz said in his statement. “New Mexican taxpayers are continuing to foot the bill for a $250 million empty facility that is providing the Legislature shaky operational information at best.”

Senator Muņoz also stated that he feels “that Virgin Galactic is in violation of its lease.”

Virgin Galactic emailed me the following statement on the matter:

Virgin Galactic remains fully committed to the efforts of NMSA and Spaceport America.

We have made a lot of progress on the build of our second spaceship, and our plans for commercial operations remain the same: we will test in California and operate our spaceline from New Mexico. We signed a 20 year lease with the State and have been paying rent monthly since January 2013. We are committed to our New Mexico suppliers and New Mexico based staff and will continue to add both.

It’s also clear that the State of New Mexico remains committed to Spaceport America and values its enduring role in commercial space history. As Spaceport America’s anchor tenant, we support its efforts to attract other tenants and to reach its full sustainable potential.

If the bill passes, the Spaceport will be required to put together a marketing plan by October 2015, and to maintain the facility in the same conditions until a sale is finalized.

On thing that’s not clear, though, is exactly who the buyers would be. There are now several FAA certified commercial spaceports in the country and some of them, such as the Midland Air and Spaceport in Texas, already have space startups with offices on site.

“I don’t know who would want to buy a spaceport,” Bill Ostrove, an industry analyst for Forecast International told me. “I don’t really see a private airport operator buying them, since it would be a very risky investment. Space is very popular among wealthy people and people in the tech industry right now. So someone from that domain may be interested, even if it is just to get in on the industry in some way. It’s possible that no one would buy it. Then the New Mexico government would have to decide if they want to keep funding the spaceport or not.”

If the spaceport is purchased, Ostrove said, it likely wouldn’t have any impact on the companies that use it. What’s more important, he thinks, is what this bill represents.

“The legislation is a reflection on the frustration that a lot of people have with how slow space tourism is moving. New Mexico has invested about $250 million on the spaceport and has nothing to show for it yet.”


02-21-2015, 02:58 PM

This makes me think of a video I saw of an extreme Base Jumper who rode up to the edge of space just with a Helium balloon. Is there any similar way a Space Tourist could just use a simple system like this rather than a complicated ship requiring a lot of fuel?

Red Bull Stratos, a mission to the edge of space, will attempt to transcend human limits that have existed for 50 years. Supported by a team of experts Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His attempt to dare atmospheric limits holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers.

Could several Stratospheric Balloons haul up a larger module without the need of a sophisticated spaceship system? Certainly, most passengers won't want to just jump out like Felix, but could a kind of dedicated small light weight Space Dirigible / Zeppelin be feasible to get tourists to the edge of space?

Such a vehicle would probably not get passengers far enough for true weightlessness or high orbit, but maybe this is a start. It would be great if somehow how a method like this was feasible just as a shuttle and a crew on a space station could come down to get them and bring them up.