Midland City Councilman Wants to Shutdown Spaceport

Following the bankruptcies of XCOR and Orbital outfitters, Midland City Councilman Spencer Robnett says it’s time to end the city’s efforts to establish a viable spaceport.

In an opinion piece published by the Midland Reporter Telegram, Robnett wrote:

At this Tuesday’s City Council meeting, we will consider a resolution extending a contract with SilverWing Enterprises for contractual services to renew our spaceport license for 5 years. I will vote against extending the spaceport license and any future spaceport agenda items and would encourage my fellow councilmen and councilwoman to do the same.

What was initially touted as a chance to diversify Midland’s economy and bring space tourism, space research and space travel to West Texas has cost the taxpayers of Midland over $20 million to date with nothing to show for it. Since this community began pursuit of a spaceport designation, Midland’s population has grown at unprecedented rates and Permian Basin oil production has tripled. Based on some reports, Basin production could again double by 2023 with $300 billion in upstream investment forecast during that time period. We need to spend our tax dollars supporting infrastructure that helps drive what makes Midland unique and prosperous, not chase speculative diversification efforts at the taxpayers’ expense.

  • duheagle

    The Councilman is correct. Midland’s Spaceport effort was not unreasonable at the time it began, but it has pretty clearly come up snake-eyes and it’s time to give it a decent burial. No point in open-endedly extending the effort as has been the case with a certain other inland Spaceport in a neighboring state.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it is just not a suitable location for a spaceport. It never made any sense.

    Pity they lured both XCOR and Orbital Outfitters to their doom there. Both would have been better off staying at Mojave instead.

  • Pete Zaitcev

    They were lucky: they spent 15 times less than the state of New Mexico.

  • Geoff T

    Certainly right on the spaceport as a busted flush (to mix gambling metaphors) but if I was in his constituency I’d be worried at the subtext of doubling down on oil and gas and not diversifying industry. Sure the good times will be good, but it will not be fun next time the oil price dips.

  • duheagle

    The oil price has already dipped, but the frackers seem to keep coming up with new ways to take expense out of the process so I think Midland is not going to be looking at any imminent hard times overall. Being a single-industry town is something that should be avoided if possible, but there are plenty of diversifications Midland might reasonably pursue that suit its location and circumstances better than chasing space.

  • Michael Halpern

    Yup don’t know enough about the region and it’s resources, but a spaceport needs very specific geography and transportation resources to be really viable, and unless you are an inland country, you want a large body of water if at all possible

  • patb2009

    or XCor killed off what could have been viable

  • ThomasLMatula

    Actually it looks like they are going to double-down on their bet…

    https://www.mrt.com/news/local/article/Midland-City-Council-approves-spaceport-extension-13256859.php

    Midland City Council approves spaceport extension

    “Too much in tangible assets still out there for the city to throw in the towel now, city leaders said”

    “By a 6-1 vote, council members approved the spending of $100,000 for the spaceport renewal license. The money will come from the Airport Operations Fund, not the city’s general fund.”

    The old sunk cost fallacy at work…