The following is the New Mexico legislative fiscal impact report for SB-157, a measure introduced by State Sen. Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) to restrict use taxes collected in Sierra and Dona Ana counties to paying off Spaceport America bonds. Revenues in excess of what is needed to pay off the bonds are being used to fund spaceport operations.
The analysis indicates that excess revenues could be used to pay off the two bonds one year earlier than their 2029 maturation date. However, the restriction would put a gap in the spaceport’s operating budget that would have to be paid by state taxpayers. Spaceport officials are already seeking $2.26 million from the state government for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year to fund operations.
The revenue gaps at the $225 million spaceport have been caused by delays by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, which plans to fly tourists to space from the facility. New Mexico officials are hoping flights begin in Fiscal Year 2018, which will begin on July 1, 2017. Virgin Galactic has not given an estimate for when service will begin.
New Mexico State Sen. Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) has renewed efforts to bring tax relief to residents of Dona Ana and Sierra counties relating to their support of Spaceport America.
In 2007, residents of the two counties agreed to increase their taxes to help fund the construction of the facility, which is located outside of Truth or Consequences. The taxes remain in place to pay off bonds sold to fund Spaceport America’s construction.
Have you been wondering exactly what Spaceport America costs to operate? Curious about what officials spend money on? Anxious to know what this is going to cost you in the fiscal year ahead? Dying to learn how much anchor tenant Virgin Galactic is contributing to the budget?
Well, look no further. Parabolic Arc has the spaceport’s budget request for FY 2017, which begins on July 1. There’s a full description of spending and projected revenues right after the break.
The Las Cruces Sun-News has an update from Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. The highlights are below.
Virgin Galactic remains “completely committed” to Spaceport America despite recent remarks by Richard Branson that the company also wants to fly from a British spaceport.
Doña Ana County officials are moving forward with a plan to pave a dirt road that will provide more direct access to Spaceport America from Las Cruces. A contract could be awarded as early as July.
The spaceport expects to earn $4 million in fiscal year 2017 that begins on July 1. It will still need $2.8 million from the New Mexico Legislature to cover its operating budget.
Officials are expecting Virgin Galactic to begin flying from Spaceport America during FY 2018. Virgin’s annual rent will increase during that year from $1 million to around $3 million.
ARCASpace is planning to test their AirStrato vehicle at Spaceport America this year.
Officials are continuing efforts to attract more businesses to the spaceport, including positioning it as a location for filming and events.
The rent hike is interesting. If Virgin Galactic isn’t flying people or launching satellites — i.e., generating revenues — by the time the rent triples, the company could face some serious challenges.
One wonders if this is what is behind Virgin’s decision to go to three shifts per day building the second SpaceShipTwo. The other concern is that the company will try to rush the program forward and short change the development and testing processes.
SPACEPORT AMERICA, N.M., Jan. 11, 2016 (NMSA PR) — Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport, announced today the launch of its new venue and event brand Gateway to Space™.
Video Caption: Reach for the stars through one of the Earth’s largest areas of protected airspace at Spaceport America.
Editor’s Note: They’re clearly going after vehicle developers like the ones that are tenants in Mojave. Note the statements about being able to work on your program all year long in a remote location protected by a security staff. Don’t quite have those advantages here.
On the other hand, you are literally an hour from anywhere at Spaceport America. The closest town is Truth or Consequences. There’s not a lot there. Once they get the southern road built, there will be better access from Hatch (where there isn’t much) and Las Cruces (a larger city people would actually want to live in). In Mojave, you can go out for lunch if you want, there is some decent housing in town, Lancaster and Tehachapi are a half hour away, and Los Angeles is an hour beyond Lancasster. There’s also industry in the area for anyone who needs parts made.
The other issue is that once Virgin Galactic starts flying from Spaceport America, they have a lot of say over who uses the runway. I would recommend anyone thinking of moving there to get a hold of the agreements the spaceport signed with Virgin.
“Our assumption is that they wouldn’t begin commercial flights with passengers until July 2016,” [Executive Director Christine] Anderson said in an interview. “That’s just an assumption. It doesn’t mean I know any more than anyone else, but it means that I had to base my budget on something.”
Well, fair enough. I guess she has to base the budget on something. It would be nice if that something was a little more realistic. A July start doesn’t appear to be so at the moment.
Southern Road Project Delayed: A project aimed at turning a 24-mile dirt road to Spaceport America into a “quasi-paved surface” has hit a snag that will delay the project by two to three months. There has been a mismatch between the corridor proposed for the southern road and an environmental review conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Bill Childress, regional BLM director, said the study examined a route originally specified by the county for the proposed road upgrades. But “when we got the final engineering documents from the county, it didn’t match the documents,” Childress said. “We had to inform the county of that.”
Childress said the route distance that didn’t align was “less than a mile,” mainly in one particular location. The route in the engineering plans was offset from that examined in the environmental study by a distance of about “20 to 30 feet.”
SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM, June 24, 2015 (NMSA PR) – Spaceport America – the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport announced today the new Spaceport America Experience tour is open for visitors.
Guests gathered to create a celebratory atmosphere in the street outside the new Spaceport America Visitor Center located in the historic hot-springs district of the City of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM, and PETALUM, CA, May 19, 2015 (NMSA PR) – Global satellite communications solutions provider X2nSat announces today its decision to partner with Spaceport America – the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. X2nSat has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the long-term lease of land and access to infrastructure as the first VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) solution provider within Spaceport America’s new satellite gateway ground station development.
Spaceport America, N.M., May 13, 2015 (NMSA PR) – Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, announced the publication of its go-to-market strategy and business plan today.
With construction winding down, Spaceport America is officially open for business following today’s approval of a new go-to-market strategy and five-year business plan by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s (NMSA) board of directors. The plan was presented to the board by Spaceport America CEO Christine Anderson.
The authority is paying $2.9 million annually to a company to provide state-of-the-art fire protection to the largely empty spaceport — which is used for the occasional sounding rocket launch and television commercial.
SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NMSA PR) – Spaceport America CEO Christine Anderson announced today that Tammara Anderton will become the spaceport’s first Director of Marketing. Anderton brings over 25 years of experience in international brand strategy and marketing communication. Anderton has extensive multi-stakeholder engagement experience spanning the biotechnology, energy, healthcare, mobile and wireless, environmental, financial services, and non-profit sectors. She held international executive management positions with Saatchi Saatchi, OTM Brand, Unaxis, and CellTrust.
A sculpture named GENESIS by artists Otto Rigan has been installed at the entrance of Spaceport America. The 2.5-ton sculpture was commissioned under New Mexico’s Art in Public Places program, which is mandatory for all major state-funded construction projects.
For all you art lovers, information about the artist and the sculpture is below courtesy of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.