Virgin Galactic CEO Will Whitehorn tells The Daily Record that his company will begin flying suborbital tourism flights from one of three locations in Scotland beginning in 2013.
“Scotland will definitely be our main base in the UK for space tourism flights and we would be aiming to take off from there within about five years,” he told the newspaper. “There are three great locations within Scotland, with the best being Lossiemouth. Failing that, Kinloss and Machrihanish in the Mull of Kintyre would also be suitable for this kind of flight.”
SPACEPORT AMERICA PRESS RELEASE
Following a successful bid process, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority
(NMSA) and the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) broke ground on road improvements for Spaceport America on Thursday, September 18.
After a successful bid award on August 1, 2008, construction will begin by the Reiman Corporation, a construction company with over 15 years of experience in New Mexico. Once completed, the improved road will provide better access and allow the construction process at Spaceport America to continue on schedule.
Spaceport tax question will appear on Otero County ballot
Alamogordo Daily News
“The Otero County Commission heard a presentation and some citizen discussion prior to adopting a resolution to place a County Spaceport Regional Gross Receipts tax on the November ballot Thursday night.
“If approved, tax collections in Otero County would be combined with those already approved for collection in DoÃ±a Ana and Sierra counties to help fund construction of a launch site for commercial space vehicles in southern Sierra County. Construction for the $198 million project is to be completed in late 2010.
Sportsmen dispute results of spaceport impact study
Las Cruces Sun-News
“Sportsmen in DoÃ±a Ana County said Thursday a draft environmental study for a proposed spaceport is problematic because it fails to adequately consider impacts to wildlife.
“Members of four sportsmen and wildlife groups spoke up at public hearing hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The session was meant to solicit feedback on a draft environmental study completed last month by the agency.
“‘The big disagreement is they find there’s no significant impact,’ said Angel Montoya, representing the DoÃ±a Ana County Associated Sportsmen.'”
Las Crucen to guide spaceport
Las Cruces Sun-News
Las Cruces native Daniela Glick has been appointed chairwoman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, Gov. Bill Richardson’s office announced Thursday. Glick now serves as the deputy cabinet secretary of the Economic Development Department. Kelly O’Donnell, who formerly served as spaceport authority chairwoman, will now focus on her job as superintendent of the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department, according to Richardson spokesman, Gilbert Gallegos.
Bidding process begins for spaceport road improvements
Las Cruces Sun-News
The New Mexico Department of Transportation has begun the bid process for Spaceport America road improvements. On June 21, NMDOT began accepting bids for improving County Road AO13 from Engle in Sierra County, south the intersection of AO13 and AO39, which is the entrance to the spaceport.
Richardson’s presidential campaign donated to help get spaceport tax passed
Jose L. Medina
Las Cruces Sun-News
Gov. Bill Richardson’s unsuccessful presidential campaign was the largest contributor to a political action committee that pushed for passage of a spaceport tax referendum in Sierra County last April…The Richardson for President campaign gave $10,000 to People for Aerospace of Sierra County on April 8, two weeks before the April 22 vote in which Sierra residents overwhelmingly approved the tax, clearing the way for a spaceport taxation district.
April Schmidlapp, who worked to defeat Sierra’s tax, said she feels the vote was bought. She said a loosely organized group of tax opponents at most spent “a couple thousand dollars.”
“It’s all part of a group in (Truth or Consequences) that just bullies its way through decision-making and gets what they want done,” she said.
What Spaceport doesn’t mean
Alamogordo Daily News
Steve Landeene, executive director of the N.M. Spaceport Authority, says the port will create 2,500 jobs generating more than $1 billion in economic growth. If each job represents a new family (Mom/Dad/Child) you get 7,500 new people. Add some 3,500 more to supply that growth with services and consumables, and the total jumps to 11,000 (all estimates, of course).
I do not feel one-third of those jobs will come to Otero. Maybe not even one will, unless it’s a local who is lucky enough to land a SP job and is willing to drive over the St. Augustin Pass then 50 miles north of Las Cruces on a four-hour daily trek, rather than move nearer the SP.
Orbital Sciences Corp. seems to be taking its time in making a decision about where it will launch its new Taurus II rocket. WNDT-TV reports that officials at Wallops Island on are anxiously awaiting a decision on whether Orbital will stay in its home state of Virginia or go south to Florida.
Meanwhile, 20 members of Florida’s Congressional delegation have released a statement urging Orbital to locate its new launch facility at the Kennedy Space Center.
In other news:
- Russia and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement concerning joint cooperation in space exploration and the continued use of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
- Officials in New Mexico are moving ahead with plans to create a tax district to support development of Spaceport America.
The Boston Globe’s Drake Bennett takes a look at lunar property rights and other space settlement issues in a story titled, “My space: If we really want to explore space, maybe we should sell it off to the highest bidders.”
“To get an idea of what the flight into space will really be like, you have to extrapolate from the experience of riding on one of Beardieâ€™s Virgin trains. Theyâ€™ll have closed the buffet before you even arrive in space and then the craft will be kept in a holding stack for four hours before you can land, during which time the air-conditioning will be switched off and the air will smell like the steam from a pressure cooker full of cabbage. Then, when you write to Branson at Necker Island to complain, youâ€™ll get an automated reply from the customer services department in Slough.”
Speaking of which, New Mexico officials are pushing ahead with plans to build Spaceport America, whereÂ Virgin Galactic is set to become an anchor tenant. Next up: a public vote in Otera County on a tax increase to support construction. The Alamogordo Daily News has the latest. The Las Cruces Sun-News also has an update here.
Voters in Sierra County overwhelmingly approved an increase in the sales tax to help fund Spaceport America, New Mexico’s ambitious effort to build a gateway to the stars.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that 65 percent of voters approved the .25 cent tax increase, a wider margin than some had predicted. The 42 percent turnout was the highest ever for a special election.
“I’m feeling good,” New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Steve Landeene said. “It’s been an emotional day and obviously the outcome is a very positive emotion.”
The approval means that a taxation district can be formally established with Dona Ana County, whose residents narrowly approved the tax increase last year. Voters in neighboring Otera County will go to the polls in November.
New Mexico hopes the spaceport will be used for a variety of purposes, most prominently to send tourists on suborbital flights. The state is in negotiations with London-based Virgin Galactic to be an anchor tenant.
The small, quiet town of Truth or Consequences, NM – best known for its thriving arts community and its access to hot springs and the state’s largest lake – has been thrust into the center of a debate over our future in space.
On Tuesday, voters in this community of 7,000 will help decide the fate of Spaceport America, New Mexico’s ambitious effort to build a gateway to the heavens. Residents in T or C and throughout Sierra County will vote on a .25 cent increase in the gross receipts tax to help fund the $198 million facility in the southern part of the county. A “yes” vote is crucial to forming a tax district with neighboring DoÃ±a Ana and Otera counties.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the vote could go either way. A pro-spaceport tax group, People for Aerospace, has been campaigning heavily throughout Sierra County, promoting the project’s economic benefits. However, other residents have opposed the tax increase, placing anti-tax signs on T or C streets and staging a rally over the weekend.
The flurry of activity surrounding Spaceport America continued this week as an Albuquerque company agreed to continue using New Mexico’s rocket base.
Microgravity Enterprises Incorporated signed a memorandum of understanding with the spaceport. The company produces energy drinks and other products from ingredients flown on suborbital rockets.
Earlier in the week, the company’s rocket provider, UP Aerospace of Colorado, agreed to continue using the facility for another 10 years. In recent weeks, the New Mexico Space Authority gave its executive director authority to begin negotiations with space tourism provider Virgin Galactic. Governor Bill Richardson also traveled to Washington, DC, where he sought support from the federal government.
All this activity comes on the eve of a crucial April 22 vote by residents of Sierra County over whether to raise the county sales tax by .25 cents to help pay for construction of an upgraded spaceport capable of handling tourism flights. The vote is expected to be close.
The AP is reporting that UP Aerospace has agreed to launch rockets from Spaceport America in New Mexico for the next 10 years. The Colorado-based company has previously launched two rockets from the desert facility.
The memorandum of understanding, described as a handshake deal, represents the first long-term agreement for the nascent spaceport. New Mexico is planning to develop the facility near Truth or Consequences to accommodate suborbital tourism flights. State officials are negotiating a 20-year agreement with London-based Virgin Galactic.
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has granted Executive Director Steve Landeene the authority to sign a legally binding development agreement with Virgin Galactic, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
“The agreement commits Virgin Galactic to a 20-year lease to host its space tourism operations at the spaceport but is not an actual lease. Rather, it is a precursor to a lease, Landeene said Sunday,” the paper reports.
News of the agreement could help Spaceport America, which faces a crucial funding vote in just over two weeks. Residents of Sierra County will be going to the polls on April 22 to vote on a .25-cent increase in the sales tax to help fund the spaceport’s construction.
The vote – like a similar measure that was approved by residents in DoÃ±a Ana County – is expected to be close. Opponents have questioned why they should be subsiding a spaceport where the anchor tenant will be Virgin Galactic – a company that plans to fly wealthy tourists on suborbital flights for $200,000 apiece. Sierra County contains a fair number of retirees living on fixed incomes.
In a separate editorial, the Sun-News editors urged Sierra County residents to support the tax increase.
“We believe Spaceport America in particular, and space commercialization in general, can be an important piece of New Mexico’s future economy. And most of the economic benefit will land in our backyard,” the editors wrote.
New Mexico officials were in Washington last week, seeking federal support for the establishment of a new commercial spaceport in their state.
Governor Bill Richardson and Spaceport America executive director Steve Landeene made the rounds, meeting with Congressional leaders and NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. Although federal officials offered no funding, they did express support for New Mexico’s efforts, which could payoff over time.
The Space Fellowship has a comprehensive story about various spaceports that are under development around the world in Virginia, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, California, Dubai, Singapore and other locations. Some are already in the works, while others are awaiting full funding.