Suborbital Instrument Test Flights Could Take Off From Northern California

I found an interesting piece in the Siskiyou Daily News about the possibility of suborbital test flights that could be taking place in Northern California:

What goes up must come down, and in this case, there’s a possibility it will be going up at the Siskiyou County Airport outside Montague and coming down in the Pacific Ocean.

Montague City Councilwoman Jayne Keller reported at the council’s Dec. 3 meeting on her contact with Premier Space Systems, a rocket-instrument/engine-testing business that is exploring the idea of a test site project at the county airport.

“It would be for testing instruments in a zero-G (gravity) environment,” Keller explained. Interested parties would be given the opportunity to put projects into sub-orbit for testing purposes.

Siskiyou County is located in northern California on the the Oregon border. It is an inland area, not adjacent to the sea, but it is not that far from the coast.

Premier Space Systems’ website is under construction; it refers visitors to Spath Engineering, a company based on Bay City, Oregon. The description on its website includes:

Spath Engineering conducts empirical investigations of aerospace propulsion systems. Projects have included firings at the Tillamook and Butte sites of LOX/hydrocarbon hybrids, and simulated hypersonic testing of LOX enriched turbine engines.

Testing is accomplished at the newly completed site near Butte, Montana which is capable of firings of 10,000 lbs thrust. Funding has been approved for a second Butte test site, which will be capable of 150,000 lbs thrust testing. This site is being developed with MSE Technology Applications and the Montana Aerospace Development Association.

Owner Terry Spath graduated from the University of Washington in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1974, and has participated in numerous aerospace development and test programs. Notable past projects include aircraft flight tests at Learjet and liquid bi-propellant rocket development work as a contractor to the Air Force Research Laboratory. Spath Engineering contracted with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for jet engine research. Terry Spath holds an FAA ATP and A&P with Inspection Authorization.

Spath is also listed as Testing Director for the Space Propulsion Group of Sunnyvale, California. His biography from the website:

Terry Spath is an aerospace engineer with a long career developing, testing, and operating aircraft, aircraft engines and rocket motors. He was the prime contractor to DARPA for the test of an innovative supersonic propulsion system. Under his direction, a US fighter jet engine was operated at conditions of Mach 3.2 flight using liquid mass injection. Under contract to AFRL he participated in the build-up and operation of a bi-propellant liquid rocket engine test stand. Tests included firings of a 20 ton thrust class LOX /RP1 rocket and a mono-propellant gas generator.

Mr. Spath worked as a flight test engineer during certification of the Learjet model 31 and an accident investigator for Cessna aircraft. He participated in development of composite aircraft structures for Beech aircraft and structural dynamic loads analysis of the space shuttle for Rockwell International. He flew professionally for FedEx and is an 8,000 hour ATP who flies and maintains his own twin engine Beech Baron aircraft. Other licenses include an FAA A&P with inspection authorization. Mr Spath graduated from the University of Washington with a BS in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Siskiyou County Airport

Siskiyou County Airport is a public airport located three miles (4.8 km) northeast of Montague that mostly serves general aviation.

Elevation: 2648 ft. / 807.1 m
Runway Dimensions: 7484 x 150 ft. / 2281 x 46 m
Surface: asphalt, in good condition
Aircraft based on the field: 24
Single engine airplanes: 16
Multi-engine airplanes: 1
Gliders airplanes: 5
Ultralights: 2
Aircraft operations: avg 38/day (2008)

  1. 54% local general aviation
  2. 43% transient general aviation
  3. 1% military
  4. 1% air taxi