By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
The Mojave Air and Space Port has decided not to bid to become a prime site for the testing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), but it will likely become a team member on separate proposals being submitted by two other California groups.
On Tuesday, the spaceport’s Board of Directors approved moving forward with plans to join proposals that Ventura County and Inyokern Airport will submit to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA will designate six sites around the country for UAS testing later this year.
Mojave Spaceport CEO Stu Witt said the rigorous reporting requirements connected with become a prime test site was one reason for not submitting an independent bid. He added that there are no federal funds attached to the five-year license, which might require the airport to invest between $500,000 and $2 million of its own funding.
Witt said that he had consulted the four tenants at the spaceport that are currently working with unmanned or optionally piloted vehicles under various FAA permits. They told him they did not need the UAS designation to continue their work.
Under the Ventura County proposal, Mojave would become an alternative launch and recovery site for the unmanned systems, Witt said. The partnership would not require the spaceport to make any financial commitment, nor would it include burdensome reporting requirements.
Witt said the proposed Inyokern teaming agreement was unacceptable because it requires the Mojave spaceport to become a full team member, provide a substantial financial commitment, and meet full reporting requirements.
Board members agreed with Witt that the proposal was unacceptable. However, they approved a plan to continue working with Inyokern officials to work out an acceptable partnership arrangement.
The spaceport faced a deadline of today to inform Inyokern and the FAA if it wanted to be a team member, Witt said. Mojave and Inyokern have until March 28 to sign a teaming agreement. If the two parties can’t work out mutually acceptable terms, Mojave will withdraw from the bid.