Sierra Space and Spaceport America Sign Agreement on Landing Site for Dream Chaser® Spaceplane

Memorandum of Understanding Adds New Mexico Spaceport to Growing Portfolio of Global Landing Locations for Dream Chaser

Expands Working Relationship Following Sierra Space’s 2022 Corporate Sponsorship of Spaceport America Cup

Dream Chaser, set to launch in 2023, is the only commercial spacecraft capable of low-g earth return to compatible commercial runways worldwide, allowing immediate access to high value payloads. (Credit: Sierra Space)

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Sierra Space PR)Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company at the forefront of creating and building the future of space transportation and infrastructure for low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization, and Spaceport America announced today the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The agreement adds the world-class New Mexico spaceport to Sierra Space’s portfolio of potential global landing sites for its Dream Chaser®, the world’s first and only winged commercial spaceplane.

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New Mexico Seeks to Attract Virgin Galactic’s Manufacturing Facility to Spaceport America

A majority of Virgin Galactic’s future Astronauts gather with Sir Richard Branson (center) for a group photo at Virgin Galactic FAITH hangar in Mojave, CA September 25, 2013. Behind the group is the WhiteKnightTwo mated with SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Updated on March 5 at 8:34 a.m. PST with additional information about space companies located in the Los Angeles area and the benefits of industry clusters to employers and employees.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The state of New Mexico has proposed that Virgin Galactic establish a production facility at Spaceport America, which is where the company plans to begin flying tourists on suborbital space rides later this year. KRQE TV reports:

The New Mexico Economic Development Department says they have a proposal to bring Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing to the Spaceport. Right now, the manufacturing location is in the Mojave desert. Spaceport America has five permanent tenants that are conducting a variety of experiments; including one company that uses laser technology to help land on the moon.

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Los Alamos National Lab, UP Aerospace Partner on Suborbital Flight Experiment at Spaceport America

SpaceLoft suborbital rocket launch (Credit: Spaceport America)

SIERRA COUNTY, NM (Spaceport America PR) — Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and UP Aerospace partnered for a launch from Spaceport America on August 11. For the first time, LANL, through the Stockpile Responsiveness Program, partnered with a private company to perform a suborbital flight experiment involving a Los Alamos-developed diagnostic and communication payload. The ReDX-1 flight test strengthens security mission, offers nex-gen training.

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Spaceport America Bond Refinancing to Save $8.2 Million

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

SIERRA COUNTY, NM, June 25, 2021, (NMSA PR) — The New Mexico Spaceport Authority, an agency of the State of New Mexico, and operator of Spaceport America, has completed a $35.4 million refunding of its Public Project Revolving Funds of 2009 and 2010. The refinancing of the bonds significantly reduced the interest rates from about 4.50% to less than 0.80% per annum, which results in a savings of $8.2 million for New Mexico taxpayers over the remaining nine years of debt service payments.

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Scott A. McLaughlin Picked to Head New Mexico’s Spaceport America

Scott McLaughlin (Credit: NMSA)

LAS CRUCES, NM, March 2, 2021 (NMSA PR) — Scott A. McLaughlin, a New Mexico native and a long- time business and engineering professional, has been selected by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors as the new executive director of Spaceport America, Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced today.

McLaughlin graduated from New Mexico State University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and has worked at several government agencies, including the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as in the private sector with tech and engineering companies.

He served as Director of Business Development at Spaceport America prior to being named interim Executive Director of Spaceport America in July 2020.

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Preparations Underway for First Human Spaceflight from Spaceport America

SpaceShipTwo Unity on its second glide flight over Spaceport America. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SIERRA COUNTY, NM, December 7, 2020 (NMSA PR) — The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has started preparations ahead of Virgin Galactic’s first powered spaceflight from Spaceport America. The flight window will open on December 11, pending good weather conditions and technical readiness.

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Spaceport America Board Approves Spending $20 Million for New Capital Projects

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space terminal hangar facility (center), Spaceport Operations Center (Left) and “Spaceway” (Runway) at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fresh off a stinging report saying that it failed to properly oversee a state-owned facility rife with fraud, waste and abuse, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Board of Directors approved spending up to $20 million on capital improvements to Spaceport America.

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Board Fires Spaceport America Executive Director Dan Hicks

Daniel Hicks

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has terminated Spaceport America Executive Director and CEO Dan Hicks four months after he was placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement and abuse of authority.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the board voted 5-1 to remove Hicks after discussing his status in closed session for about an hour. Board members did not comment on the reason for the dismissal.

Hicks, who was hired in 2016, was placed on leave in June after former CFO Zach De Gregorio submitted a complaint that alleged the spaceport CEO had created a toxic work environment and removed adequate internal controls on the expenditure of funds.

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Spaceport America and C6 Launch Systems Sign Agreement

LAS CRUCES, NM (Spaceport America PR) — Spaceport America signed an agreement with Canadian Corporation C6 Launch Systems to provide services, resources, and access to the vertical launch sites facilities for testing operations and activities.  

C6 Launch Systems (www.c6launch.ca) plans to begin work at Spaceport America in January 2021. Over a six-week period, the Canadian rocket company will install a new vertical test stand and conduct system integration tests including several engine firings at Spaceport America. These tests will validate the avionics, engine control, ground control and communications subsystems.

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Spaceport America Interim CEO Appointed Amid Ethics Investigation

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

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority appointed business development director Scott McLaughlin as interim CEO of Spaceport America as an investigation continues into suspended CEO Dan Hicks.

The Las Cruces Sun News reports:

McLaughlin, an Albuquerque native and New Mexico State University alumnus who began working for the spaceport in 2019, introduced himself at a meeting of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s board of directors Friday morning. The meeting was conducted via video conference. 

Melissa Force, who briefly stepped in as interim director, continues to serve as the spaceport’s full-time general counsel. 

Hicks, the spaceport’s CEO since 2016, is on administrative leave pending an investigation into a complaint by the spaceport’s former chief financial officer, Zach De Gregorio.

The complaint, submitted in June, accuses Hicks of undermining internal accounting controls and interfering with communications between De Gregorio and state Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes, who chairs the NMSA board. 

Keyes said a report should be available for the board’s review in two to three weeks.

Collaboratory Formed to Promote New Mexico’s Spaceport America During Closed Door Meeting

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Officials from New Mexico, the federal government and Virgin Galactic met last week behind closed doors for the state’s first Space Valley Summit to form a “collaboratory” to promote Spaceport America and the state’s aerospace economy.

The one group not invited: taxpayers who have forked over about $250 million to build the spaceport where Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant. As the Las Cruces Sun News dryly noted

Minutes after [Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham] exhorted the summit to “make sure every New Mexican … knows exactly what is happening here,” all reporters were asked to leave. 

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