Busy Mojave Spaceport Moves to 7-Day-Week Operations

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

During the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) meeting on Tuesday, one of the board members asked Stu Witt how busy things are at the Mojave Air and Space Port these days.

“Do you see my eyes?” the spaceport’s CEO and general manager replied.

Witt had been up early that day to help support Scaled Composites’ latest drop test of the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle. He was there to watch the spacecraft glide to a landing at 8:04 a.m. PDT, a time when most people aren’t even at work yet. The tower controller and firefighters had also turned out early to support the test flight.

Between its flight test operations, industrial park, and role supporting the local wind industry, the Mojave spaceport is now operating seven days per week. This coming Saturday, the desert facility will host another “major flight event,” Witt told the board. Saturday tests have been relative rare at the airport until recently.

In addition to Scaled Composites testing of SpaceShipTwo, Masten Space Systems has been flying its suborbital vehicles in the test area out beyond the runways. Firestar Technologies is also actively testing in that area. XCOR is busy at its hanger on weekends as the company builds its first Lynx suborbital space plane. Construction on Stratolaunch’s second hangar is well underway as its first building nears the completion of its internal fit out.

Witt said the spaceport’s busy schedule is creating a lot of work for the airport’s staff. However, he said the cost of labor in California means that it is more affordable to pay existing staff overtime than to hire new full-time personnel.  Temp workers have also been brought in.

In order to cut down on staff workload and save money, Witt recommended the EKAD board cut back from two meetings per month to one, with special meetings as needed. This suggestion got a cool reception from EKAD President Jim Balentine, who felt he would not feel as connected to the spaceport by meeting only monthly.