New Mexico Legislators Look into Spaceport America Finances

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

New Mexico legislators spent Monday down in Las Cruces reviewing the finances of Space America. Members of the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee discovered that more had stayed the same than had changed in recent months.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

  • Virgin Galactic will likely not begin flying paying passengers for at least another 8 months. It’s not really clear how realistic that goal is; much depends on how upcoming test flights using a brand new motor go in Mojave.
  • Local taxpayers are partially on the hook for helping to keep the $218.5 million, taxpayer-funded spaceport operational until Virgin Galactic begins commercial flights. Currently, the $218.5 million taxpayer-funded spaceport is being used to launch sounding rockets and shoot commercials for Land Rover.
  • Operations are being partially funded from excess tax revenues levied in Dona Ana and Sierra counties that could be otherwise spent paying off spaceport bonds or making infrastructure improvements such as paving a southern road to the spaceport.
  • The $14.5 million that authorities have put aside to pave the road isn’t remotely enough to do the do a full paving job.
  • Construction on the 24-mile road – which will provide more direct access from Las Cruces – is likely to begin next summer after the Bureau of Land Management completes its review of the project.
  • SpaceX is about five months from being able to conduct flight tests of its reusable Falcon 9 vehicle at the spaceport.
  • A new, unidentified tenant is expected to begin flights of whatever it flies sometime during fiscal year 2016.

Learn more below:

  • Solartear

    “SpaceX is about five months from being able to conduct flight tests of its reusable Falcon 9 vehicle at the spaceport.”

    The KVIA reporter must have misheard/mistyped something. This would be contrary to SpaceX’s timetable, unless they have had a major setback beyond F9R-Dev1 terminating.

  • windbourne

    Why?
    When is SpaceX claiming that they will be ready?

  • Solartear

    https://twitter.com/maximeputeaux/status/509365783664005120

    “@SpaceX COO next Falcon9R shall be delivered within 2 months for testing and the sent to New Mexico to fly #WSBW2014”

    WSBW2014 was a month ago. Unfortunately confirmation could not be given later.

    http://www.wacotrib.com/blogs/joe_science/spacex-updates-launch-moved-to-sept-new-test-rocket-may/article_0bca4dea-3abd-11e4-80c7-831230b94b83.html?mode=jqm

    ” SpaceX spokesman John Taylor: I’m afraid I must decline to comment on the testing timeline you mentioned, but I can confirm for you that we’ll do additional testing with the F9R dev program in Texas before we go to New Mexico. ”

    Subtracting 1 month until F9R-dev2 arrives at McGregor, that gives 4 months of testing in McGregor and New Mexico before first flight. Perhaps then “5 months” is just pragmatic given the usual ‘optimistic’ estimates by SpaceX,VG,etc.

  • SpaceTech

    $218 million dollars, with more to come…………not a very good investment.

  • therealdmt

    For a while there, it looked like events with the actual launches were going to overtake the F9R-dev program.

    Now things seemed to have slowed down on both fronts. If the F9R-dev won’t even fly in New Mexco for 5 months, that would seem likely to push out a return-to-land by the first stage by about a year.

    Oh well. We’ll see.

  • MachineAgeChronicle

    Right up there with London’s Millennium Dome.

  • SpaceTech

    Let me clarify my statement, I don’t want to say it is a bad investment but rather just a little premature investment.
    Personally, I would have made an agreement with Virgin Galactic to set aside the land for development and associated tax breaks but not built anything until the business was viable.
    At this point the launch site isn’t worth anymore than the X-33 launch site at Edwards AFB.

  • Hug Doug

    well, UP Aerospace and Masten have done some launches there. other than that, it’s been pretty quiet for a spaceport.

    and yes, it would have been better for New Mexico to wait to sink money into a major project until the primary user of that project was actually ready for business.

    though i will note that the government does things like this all the time (roads and bridges to nowhere, etc.) and this is merely one that is very high profile.