Look Out Spaceport America! Here Comes Colorado

Colorado has applied to the FAA of spaceport certification of Front Range Airport, which is about 22 miles from Denver and six miles from Denver International Airport. The reason? To prepare for the impending era of suborbital, point-to-point passenger service:

The impetus for applying for spaceport certification now is the result of serious interest on the part of out-of-state companies preparing for future space tourism, said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

The companies, which Clark would not identify, are working on a spacecraft that takes off horizontally from a runway like a plane but then, tens of thousands of feet into the air, lights a booster rocket capable to taking passengers past the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Clark said.

That would open up the possibility not just of space travel to ordinary — but wealthy — people, but also of ultrafast travel to points on Earth, he said.

“Once you light that thing, then you’re in Sydney [Australia] in an hour and a half,” Clark said. “We in Colorado like to brag about being able to ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. This would let us boast we can ski in morning and be surfing just after lunch — that’s the future these people are talking about.”

It’s a great vision. I’m not sure just how quickly that will happen. There are a lot of steps involved and it could take some time. On the other hand, why wait until it’s here to get a spaceport designation? And in the meantime, Colorado would be able to attract companies developing the vehicles.

If and when that era begins, the Colorado spaceport would probably have an edge over Spaceport America in that it is close to more places that people would want to visit. The state also has a large population and is a major aerospace center. Spaceport America is extremely isolated and there’s not much near it. New Mexico’s population and aerospace sector are both small.

So, what else does Front Range Airport have to offer other than location location location? According to the airport’s website,  a pair of 8,000 foot long runways that are significantly underutilized and lots of space for development.

“Front Range is the last general aviation (GA) airport constructed in Colorado and is one of the largest GA airports in the United States with just under 4,000-acres of land and surrounded by 6,000-acres of non-residential, master planned industrial complex. Further, tens of thousands of acres of dry land farming extend in all directions from the Airport,” the website states.

The website  has an entire page dedicated to the spaceport plan. Excerpts follow:

Front Range Airport has a new direction because what was perceived as a weakness: remote and underutilized is now recognized as strength in the creation of an Aerospace Center.

Key to an Aerospace Center is the designation of SpacePort and FTG is exploring the feasibility of such designation. An undertaking of this size requires a unified position and contributions from the full spectrum of aerospace participants.

One such participant and FTG friend is Allan Lockheed, whose father founded Lockheed Aircraft.

The core study and report on Point-to-Point transport of people and cargo between SpacePorts was created by the 2007 – 2008 Masters program of the International Space University….Following are specific web access addresses for the report and references to it within ISU, the FAA, and by the gentleman who led the study:

http://www.isunet.edu/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=519

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/point_to_point.pdf

http://www.iafastro.net/iac/archive/browse/IAC-08/B3/2.-D2.7/476/

http://www.isunet.edu/index.php/sturep-masters/437-great-expectations-an-assessment-of-the-potential-for-suborbital-transportation

Shortly, suborbital space transportation will be established globally between spaceports. This will change basic structures of the cost and value of goods, services, and transportation similarly as railroads changed the structure of commerce compared to stagecoaches.

At this time, the most visible demonstration of New Space enterprise is space tourism and space adventure, which build public trust, enthusiasm, and comfort with rocket propulsion and exo-atmospheric travel. Transportation is on the critical path of human history, from foot travel and sledges, to horse and stagecoach, through the airways proven by Golden Age Lockheeds, and today’s international jetliners and airports.

This evolution of transportation has continually revolutionized the structure of commerce. High speed air transport between commercial airports changed:

  • Where manufacturing is performed–good air transport facility is vital
  • The size and inventory requirements of warehousing
  • Enabled critical and emergency services to be delivered to remote locations in/on time
  • Enabled “Just-in-Time” materials and supplies delivery to cut costs of production usefully
  • Turned “Bill of Materials Planning” [BOMP] standards and procedures on its ear

 

Suborbital Point-to-Point transportation does the same, by allowing goods, materials, and know-how to be delivered in minutes and hours instead of hours and days.