By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
Tenants on the north side of the Mojave Air and Space Port will be getting power, water and high-speed fiber services early next year under a $1.3 million project approved by the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors on Tuesday.
Chief Operating Officer Kevin Wojtkiewicz estimated that the work could take two to three months to complete.
The project will cost an estimated $1.19 million. However, officials have added $119,080 in contingency funding to the budget in case workers run into anything unexpected while extending the utility services.
The spaceport’s north side includes the Mojave boneyard, where aircraft are recycled, as well as test areas used by Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Firestar Technologies and other companies. The test sites are scattered within a large area of sagebrush that is otherwise undeveloped.
Four tenants have signed up to use the new services once they are in place. Airport General Manager Stu Witt said that one of the tenants will be able to add about 50 new jobs as a result of the airport’s upgrade. The new services would allow companies to build larger and more sophisticated test sites, including the addition of offices and other structures.
Board member Dick Rutan was concerned whether the expansion was properly sized to accommodate the spaceport’s long-term growth. Witt responded that the utilities were sized with the next 20 years in mind. Officials decided on larger capacity water pipes and electrical connections to accommodate current tenants and future expansion.
The electrical services will allow the airport to install a solar farm on unused land on the north side, Witt added. The farm will enable the airport to put electricity back into the power grid.
Witt said that the high-speed fiber connection is especially important to data-driven companies such as Virgin Galactic and Stratolaunch Systems, which need immediate access to test data.
High-speed data services are now being hooked up on the developed south side of the airport. Several tenants have been connected to the system for a 30-day test period. Other tenants will be able to connect to the network in early December once the test phase is concluded.
Wojtkiewicz said the companies installing the high-speed data lines are hoping to eventually extend them out to service California City, which lies north of the airport.
The improvements will make the land on the north side of the airport much more valuable. Currently, the airport leases land at about 1 cent per square foot, Witt said. The improvements will probably increase the value to about 2.5 cents per square foot.
Witt said the extension of water service will aid firefighters in dealing with brush fires. Tenants also will be able to improve hygiene on the north side of the airport, where they are currently using portable toilets.
There are no current plans to extend sewers to the north side, he added. Waste disposal will be handled using septic systems.