Another Spaceport America Update

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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.