Spaceport America Seeks More Tax Dollars

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

With Virgin Galactic’s ‘big move” of its SpaceShipTwo to New Mexico expected to occur sometime in 2018, Spaceport America officials say they need taxpayers to ante up more money.

Dan Hicks, Spaceport America CEO, told attendees at the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce 2017 Space Update Luncheon on Thursday that more spaceports are poised to enter the commercial space industry, with 10 other licensed spaceports operating and an additional nine applications pending with the Federal Aviation Administration. And, with Virgin Galactic set to begin manned flights as soon as next year, more funding is needed to accommodate the increased traffic expected to follow, he said.

Hicks said he will seek an additional $600,000 from the Legislature to increase staff levels and continue with infrastructure improvements. At a cost of nearly $220 million, the taxpayer-financed Spaceport America opened in 2011. At the time, officials envisioned a new commercial space economy that would transform southern New Mexico. That economy has yet to come to fruition, but officials are hopeful.

The funding is necessary to stay on par with other spaceports around the country, Hicks said. With 16 people currently on the Spaceport America staff, Hicks hopes to increase that number to 26 “very quickly” to accommodate Virgin Galactic’s planned move to New Mexico….

New Mexico’s Spaceport America has a $6.1 million operating budget with a current state appropriation of $375,000 with $600,000 in local gross receipts taxes generated solely from Doña Ana and Sierra counties. Customer revenue generates $2.1 million.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    There may be more “spaceports” being opened up, but is there enough space vehicle business to occupy all of them? If there isn’t, it obviates the argument that SPA needs to put in updates and new facilities to “stay competitive”. Competitive with what? To attract what new customers?

    The massive negative with that facility is that it is so far from anyplace else, there isn’t much housing and very little in the area for a prospective space company employee to want to relocate. The closest major city is Albuquerque at 179 miles. Mojave isn’t an entertainment mecca, but Palmdale/Lancaster only 50 miles away have most major stores, an Imax theatre, minor league baseball and Los Angeles is a 50 mile shorter drive than T&C to Alb for concerts, sports etc.

    Maybe SPA could generate some more interest and tenants by giving away some land near the facility if a company will construct a building within a year and operates a space business for at least 5 years with the caveat that it reverts to the spaceport if the company defaults on the agreement. Instead of putting extra money directly into the spaceport, they could work with a developer to build housing just up the road where is looks like there are a few ranches.

  • Hemingway

    This is a fictitious number – “Customer revenue generates $2.1 million.”

  • Jacob Samorodin

    New Mexico taxpayers have been bitten once. If these shameless requests continue, NM taxpayers may arrange a lynch mob.