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Space News

Spaceport America Takes Off 153

SeaDour writes "Spaceport America, being built north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is finally becoming a reality and is set to become the world's first commercial spaceport. Governor Bill Richardson recently secured 33 million dollars from the state legislature for the final design, and a proposed 0.25% sales tax increase in Dona Ana County, where the facility is to be constructed, is expected to bring an additional 6.5 million dollars per year (if approved by voters next week). Richard Branson, the head of upstart Virgin Galactic, on Monday agreed to lease the facility for 27.5 million dollars over twenty years. If all continues to go as planned, SpaceShipTwo will make its first suborbital joy ride in two to three years."
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Spaceport America Takes Off

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  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <[hardburn] [at] [wumpus-cave.net]> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:02PM (#18518895)

    Great, another industry being propped up by government revenue. Because that worked so well for the telecommunications industry.

  • by jwiegley ( 520444 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:05PM (#18518945)

    Am I the only one that sees the oxymoron here... "the world's first commercial spaceport" vs "Governor Bill Richardson recently secured 33 million dollars from the state legislature for the final design, and a proposed 0.25% sales tax increase in Dona Ana County,

    This is a government spaceport. Possible deployed to deliver commercial products into space but it should be billed corrected as a government facility. Yet another shining example of your tax dollars at work. I am glad I don't live in that state/county but I fully expect that when a tornado or hurricane wipes it out I will have to foot the FEMA bill for it.

    I'm not against space ports. But if Virgin Galactic wants a facility then Virgin Galactic should foot the bill for it.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:13PM (#18519043)
    There are plenty of states trying to get spaceports built, because a spaceport means high paying jobs. New Mexico gave Virgin Galactic a sweetheart deal, but if they hadn't this thing probably would have been built elsewhere. Commercial space flight is something that will almost certainly continue to grow, especially once we can get past the "joyrides for rich people" stage. I bet a lot of people balked at the idea of building airports at first too.

    With commercial development hopefully driving space flight costs down, we could soon be in a situation where individual states could afford to have their own space programs. We could even get to the point where we could economically use LEO for quick trips to places halfway around the world.

    As space flight (hopefully) becomes more commonplace, this spaceport will be a great thing for New Mexico to have. Yes, it's a big gamble, but it's a gamble that could not only pay off big, but also one that will spark the imaginations of New Mexico school children, and hopefully get them more interested in math and science. If it manages to do that, and maybe spur the creation of aerospace programs at the two major universities in the state, then it's worth it even if it tanks after Virgin Galactic is through with it.
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:13PM (#18519051) Journal
    I doubt it's like government propping up industries - for one, the industry started taking off quite well (whatever that may entail) without any government intervention.

    Secondly, isn't that part of the role of the government? To create and maintain basic infrastructure that people can use?

    I don't see how this is different from building an airport or from building roads.

    The telecom thing did not take off because the government was trying to provide a service - this is not particularly a service, this is building an infrastructure that could be used by others.

    Besides, I think this is the sort of thing governments *should* do - beats the hell out of making condoms or TV sets (look at some socialist countries where the telecom thing was taking to an extreme, where the government started doing just about everything).

    Best of both worlds, IMHO.
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:47PM (#18519455) Journal

    Seeing as the state government (who is paying for it, BTW) stands to gain more in revenues than it's spending on the spaceport, I fail to see your logic.

    If this were funded federally, then your point makes sense. But it's not, and so it doesn't.

  • by xero314 ( 722674 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @04:01PM (#18519615)
    When Virgin Galactic wants a space port they have some decisions to make. They can either spend $27 million now and lose out on the interest over the next 20 years, Borrow $27 million with interest to be payed over the next 20 years or Rent space which allows them to maintain their assets in high yield investments with no additional interest costs.

    So you are heading up Virgin Galactic and you are trying to decide were you want to spend $27 million dollars to establish a service catering specifically to the ultra rich. You would probably put it in a state like California, New York, or maybe Virginia, if you don't decided to put it in Dubai or some other country outside the US.

    This leads us to New Mexico, home of absolutely nothing, with a less than stellar economy. If you are the governor of New Mexico and you hear that Virgin Galactic is looking for somewhere to spend $27 Million dollars, and bring some of the richest tourist in the world to your state what do you do. You could say, go ahead an build it if you can find someone to sell you the land we will approve the zoning. Or maybe you decided you can sell some public trust land for the project. So far you have made no offer that other wealthier areas couldn't make, and so give no enticement to build in your state. So instead you say, I'll front the money for you to bring in your industry and higher local people to work for you. You might feel that enticing companies to move to your state is a waste of governmental funds, but I think you would be in a minority there.
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @04:05PM (#18519659)
    This is a government spaceport.

    Isn't that the same for most FAA airports? Basically, the airports are run by the federal agency and leased by private corporations?

    Certainly there should be some regulation of space travel like regular air travel.

    No one wants a Boeing 747 or Multi-Stage rocket crashing in their neighborhood.
  • Re:Low Numbers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @04:08PM (#18519687)
    Lack of major NASA involvement tends to lower the costs a tad.
  • by jwiegley ( 520444 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @04:08PM (#18519693)

    Since you brought up government subsidized airfields... Do you mean "NM keeps the prime real-estate and gets to make money out of it." in the same way that the US government turns a tidy profit these days from the airfields/airlines that it subsidized?

    No, I read that Virgin is leasing. Virgin is getting a cheaper cost of vehicle launch at the expense of government tax payers with the state expecting [hoping would be a better word] to make 6.5Million annually.

    Sorry, Virgin has a shill in the NM government that is acquiring an economic windfall for them on the public's dime. All the economic risk that Virgin should be bearing is being shifted to the public.

    Commercial money should fund commercial ventures. The government should not be involved in the business of making money because it has been proven time and time again that government efforts cannot be done efficiently and do not make money.

    And there is a basic flaw with your economic argument... If it is going to be profitable and sustainable to provide this facility why do they need to raise sales taxes? Because the truth is they expect to make a net loss each year and need additional tax revenue to break even. (Yes, you can bring in 6.5Million every year and still have a net loss.)

  • by louks ( 1075763 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @04:50PM (#18520287)
    Our city and state governments in Indiana are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building a new stadium for the Indianapolis Colts to continue to play football here. We will still owe tens of millions on the old stadium when we tear it down. Did I mention the tax hike on each stadium, too?

    The spaceport actually slightly more acceptable, especially if it translates into high-speed, intercontinental travel.
  • You didn't answer the question.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2007 @10:04AM (#18527695)

    Secondly, isn't that part of the role of the government? To create and maintain basic infrastructure that people can use?

    NO NO NO! That is not the proper role of government. The proper role of government is to provide a legal framework which facilitates the protection of our natural rights. The government is to protect individuals from force and fraud. Spaceports, airports, roads, etc should be built by people freely and peacfully interacting, not by armed thugs who take half your income and spend it on stuff you will never use.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling