Mojave Spaceport Governing District Changes Its Name

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

After 41 years, the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) will soon become just a memory.

The district’s Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to adopt the name of the airport it operates. The district will be know as the Mojave Air and Space Port beginning on Jan. 1, 2013.

This change was actually a bit of long overdue re-branding. Officials said that while the Mojave Air and Space Port is a well-known brand worldwide, few people know what the EKAD is or what it does.

The name change will not affect any other aspect of the district, which includes the town of Mojave and the surrounding area. District residents elect the five-member board of directors that oversees airport operations.

Officials decided to delay the implementation of the change until January to allow staff members to make the necessary name changes to bank accounts and official documents.

EKAD was formed in February 1972 to administer the Mojave Airport, which had first opened in 1935 as a rural airfield to serve the booming gold and silver mining industries in the area. In July 1942, the U.S. Marine Corps took over the airfield for training pilots. It remained a military base until 1961 when Kern County obtained title to the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration designated the Mojave Airport as the nation’s first inland spaceport on June 17, 2004. This designation was followed by three suborbital flights of Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne, culminating in the winning of the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4 of that year.

There has not been a single spaceflight from Mojave since that day. Scaled Composites and XCOR Aerospace are developing suborbital vehicles named SpaceShipTwo and Lynx, respectively, that are expected to fly into space with people next year. Scaled is developing SpaceShipTwo for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which will use it for space tourism and research flights.

With Mojave once again poised to become an active spaceport, the name change appears to be well timed.