Unfinished Spaceport America Sends Out an SOS

By Douglas Messier

Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Spaceport America in New Mexico is still unfinished and has yet to see a single commercial spaceflight, but it is apparently already in need of saving.

Or so says the Save our Spaceport Coalition, which held a press conference this morning in Albuquerque. The event was held to “announce the formation of a group dedicated to pass a new law limiting the liability for space accidents in order to ensure the future of Spaceport America and save thousands of jobs in aerospace, tourism, and construction,” according to a press release from the coalition.

New Mexico already has an informed consent law exempting spaceflight participants and their families from suing in the event of injuries or deaths except in cases of gross negligence or intentional harm. That measure covers Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism firm that has signed a 20-year lease as the anchor tenant at Spaceport America.

However, the measure does not cover spacecraft manufacturers and suppliers. Those categories include Virgin Galactic, which bought out Scaled Composites’ interest in the Spaceship Company, which is building the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles that will be used at Spaceport America. The Spaceship Company has been renamed and brought under the control of Virgin Galactic.

Spaceport officials have said that without the expanded protections, it has proven difficult to convince other spaceflight companies to locate to the $209-million, taxpayer-funded spaceport south of Truth or Consequences. Additional tenants are required to make the spaceport self sufficient financially.

“The coalition includes the space industry, the aviation industry, state tourism, economic development groups, education organizations, and legislative sponsors,” according to the press release. “Scheduled to speak are the Tourism Association of New Mexico, Raton Public Schools, a defense contractor, representatives from New Mexico State University, and Virgin Galactic.”

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which oversees Spaceport America, put out a notice yesterday that a quorum of its members might be present at the Save our Spaceport Coalition meeting today. The notice stated that NMSA would not formulate any policy or take any actions as a body.

  • Please be gentle with the fetus.

  • Jimbo

    The article’s statement “… and has yet to see a single commerical spaceflight…” is not true. While Virgin Galactic has not yet flown (the spaceship is still being tested) both UP Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace have flown several times. Spaceport America will have two seperate launch systems: horizontal and vertical. Commerical aerospace companies have been flying for some time now.

  • ReusablesForever

    Doug: The last that I knew, and I double checked just now, the state capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, not Albuquerque. So where was the press conference??

  • CheapGuy

    According to newspaper reports, the conference was in Albuquerque.

  • Frank

    Your story has a little too much “FLAT SPIN” in it an the record needs to be set straight.

    “Spaceport America in New Mexico is still unfinished…”

    FLAT SPIN: Spaceport America has two publicized construction phases. The first phase, which makes up most of the spaceport fight infrastructure and was built to accommodate the Virgin Galactic operations, is done for the most part. Phase one is the majority of the new spaceport construction.

    The second phase will include visitor centers, a paved road and the extension to the runway, which Virgin Galactic has asked for.

    “ …and has yet to see a single commercial spaceflight…”

    FAULTS: True commercial spaceflights to sub-orbital space or over R & D flights to 5,000 ft. have been achieved at Spaceport America with 17 commercial and R & D spaceflights to date.

    “…but it is apparently already in need of saving.”

    MORE FLAT SPIN: New Mexico like California has to stay competitive in order to keep existing commercial space business and attracting new commercial space companies. Florida, Texas, Virginia and now Colorado have all passed new expanded informed consent legislation to include the supply chain manufactures. Two commercial space companies, one from Mojave, have located parts of their operations in Texas and Florida where informed consent is expanded to the suppliers of these commercial space companies. Both Mojave Air & Spaceport and Spaceport America have gone into the high gear to save their commercial space industries they have both heavily invested in.

    A FINAL NOTE: Santa Fe is the Capital of New Mexico and not Albuquerque and your photo is over a year old and the building you are showing is now finished.

  • Frank:

    I meant human spaceflight. New Mexico didn’t spend $209 million to build a base to launch sounding rockets.

    If Virgin Galactic pulls out for whatever reason, you’ve got a giant white elephant out there in the middle of the desert. These suborbital sounding rockets won’t pay the bills for it.

    The project is still unfinished and is running well behind schedule.

    I’m well aware of the situation in Mojave. I’ve written more about it than anyone.