Investigative Journalism Report Coming on Spaceport America

Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, Richard Branson, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at the dedication of Spaceport America’s runway in October 2010. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Well, this ought to be interesting…

What is working on

By Heath Haussamen,
June 19, 2017

I’ve been working for months on an investigative project into the status of Spaceport America. The question of whether the spaceport is providing an economic benefit to the state is front-and-center, but I’m also exploring transparency and other issues. I’ve visited the spaceport, interviewed Virgin Galactic employees, dug deep into documents and researched what’s happening in other states that have spaceports. I’ve obtained information the public has never seen and am excited to publish this series. Look for it sometime in July.



  • Nickolai

    It’s such a shame. That project made a lot of sense at the time, but now I just feel bad for the New Mexico taxpayers. Hopefully Virgin is able to ultimately follow through and get their system flying. It would be great for everyone.

  • JamesG

    I hope they have lots of cockroach spray handy and her life insurance is paid up.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Let me save you months of work…it isn’t providing economic value. Furthermore it isn’t a spaceport, it’s an airport.

  • JamesG

    More like an underutilized dragstrip.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No, Mojave is just an airport, except for the few brief flights of SpaceShipOne in 2004. It is questionable if Spaceshiptwo will be able to repeat them and there is nothing else likely to since XCOR stopped work on the Lynx Rocket Plane.

    By contrast numerous sounding rockets have reached space from Spaceport America, the most recent this weekend. That was the original intention for it in the 1990’s before the Ansari X-Prize hype. The big mistake was falling for the hype and thinking of it as an airport like Mojave, spending money on a runway and air terminal that were unnecessary to its existing function as a spaceport.

  • Douglas Messier

    Mojave does fine as a general aviation airport, industrial park, rocket test center, pilot training center, and (intermittent) spaceport.

    Think of Mojave as the once and future spaceport. I think SpaceShipTwo has a good chance now of reaching some definition of space (maybe even the Karman line) from here in the next year. Branson’s prediction of a space flight by the end of 2017 doesn’t appear to be mindless uninformed hype for once.

    Virgin also plans to base its 747/LauncherOne combination here in Mojave and conduct launches over the Pacific. Stratolaunch is based here as is Orbital ATK’s Stargazer.

    What has really kept Mojave in the black financially is the wind industry. (It’s ironic considering the libertarian attitudes here in Mojave and the oil basis of Kern County’s economy, but hey whatever pays the bills.) The airport a staging point for turbine elements that are off loaded from trains and then shipped to their final destinations. How much longer that will last I don’t know. At some point they’ve got to run out of room to erect these things, although maintenance and replacement is always going to be needed.

  • savuporo

    Please, please include all other “interesting” tenants as well.

  • ThomasLMatula

    That was the original vision that the Southwest Regional Spaceport Task Force had for Spaceport America before the state got “X-Prize Fever”, but with the focus on vertical launch, exactly the type of launches that are flying from there. The aerospace program at NMSU, along with WSMR and the astronomy/upper atmosphere research at NMT and UNM would have easy driven demand for it.

    We also planned a strong STEM element known as the New Mexico Space Academy that would have benefited the state by building a better quality workforce. The handful of educational launches that have taken place, including the one this weekend, show what the potential could gave been. But beyond that was the potential for robotics and simulating space habitats.

    Your note on wind power is interesting as we identified a huge potential for PV Solar Power at the facility,
    with easy access to a high power transmission line from El Paso to
    Albuquerque. Indeed, the lease revenue for PV would have paid for most
    of its operating costs.

    I have come to view VG as a modern version of the old play – Waiting for Godot. I hope they finally reach space, but I will believe it when I see it. Basing Stargazer, Stratolaunch and LauncherOne there makes sense, especially as the California Spaceport Authority has ceased operations. However, I wonder how the proposed tax on launches will impact them.

  • publiusr

    “What has really kept Mojave in the black financially is the wind industry.
    (It’s ironic considering the libertarian attitudes here)”

    That doesn’t surprise me.
    The newspace building winds up being the deadbeat.

    This isn’t the first time this has happened.

    Remember James Fallows book on the Very Light Jet/Air Taxi model–called FREE FLIGHT?

    For years businessmen have groused about gov’t bailed out–union piloted airlines. So–the Market solves all problems right?

    Well businessmen liked the idea of the air taxi model. The problem is–they broke into two groups. Entrepreneurs who needed bags of up-front money–since aerospace has big start-up costs–and venture capitalists who wouldn’t give them a dime.

    All that big talk amounted to nothing.

    And here we are again…..

    But kill NASA–Kill Old Space..