Coalition Seeks Another $20 Million in Public Funding for Spaceport America

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With the New Mexico Legislature back in session in Sante Fe, the Dona Ana County Legislative Coalition is seeking more than $20 million for improvements to Spaceport America.

The group is seeking $19.5 million for the first phase of a long-term capital improvement program.  Phase 1 includes a spaceway taxiway ($10 million), launch vehicle payload integration facility ($6 million), fuel farm installation ($3 million), and vertical launch area improvements ($500,000).

“This long-term facility expansion is in accordance with a master plan to facilitate additional development within 3-5 years at an overall estimated cost of $45.5 million,” the coalition said in a document outlining its 2018 legislative priorities.

The coalition is also seeking to increase the spaceport’s budget for operations and critical infrastructure to $1 million.

“The space industry is seeing exponential growth across all sectors (Civil, Commercial, and National Security Space),” the document states. “Other states are making significant investments to fund this important economic engine and are quickly outpacing New Mexico. Benefits to the state include increased jobs, research efforts, and attraction of new test efforts.”

The final item in the coalition’s list of spaceport priorities is the Commercial Space Protection Act, which would ” increase New Mexico’s competitive edge by attracting space companies who will be assured that their proprietary information will be protected without the danger of premature disclosure. This protection exists at other spaceports and is critical to level the playing field amongst spaceports.”

Whether legislators will be in the mood to provide the spaceport with additional funding remains to be seen. The spaceport has already cost New Mexico taxpayers about $225 million, and revenues are still not completely covering expenses. Some legislators have expressed deep frustration with the project.

The state built the facility for anchor Virgin Galactic, which is years behind schedule in beginning commercial suborbital space tourism flights from the spaceport. Richard Branson’s company might begin flights from the facility later this year depending upon how well testing of SpaceShipTwo goes at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Members of the coalition include the City of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, Las Cruces Public School District, and The Bridge of Southern New Mexico.

  • Larry Gioannini

    Correction: Dona Ana and Sierra County floated the $219.5 million bond for construction; not the State of New Mexico. Those county residents are being taxed to pay it off.

  • The only one making money is New Mexico State Senator Joe Cervantes – whos’s earned over $300K renting the $pacepork their Las Cruces office space! Senator Cervantes doesn’t even bother to recuse himself from voting on $pacpork issues at the Legislature.Time for the OWNERS of this property – the County taxpayers of Dona Ana & Sierra Counties to LEASE or SELL it to SOMEONE WHO WILL PAY REAL $$$ MONEY to US! ! ! !

  • aa jondo

    Here we go again with the “proprietary protection” hot button…and these guys know better! A couple UP Aerospace launches done a long time ago at $pacepork carried proprietary experiments for Boeing, and nobody questioned the safety of that privileged information. These very nice people are way off with the need to “level the playing field” with other spaceports around the country. The majority of those inland spaceports are doing nothing, for there is nothing to do in that particular field of inland spaceport capabilities. Ours and theirs are made for space rocket planes which are only represented by VG. They are made for the future of supersonic jets which are making a comeback. But $pacepork is not a destination for such commercial flights. Trying to be like Cape Canaveral would cost $7 billion, according to $pacepork Director Hicks! We would have been better off copying NASA’s Wallops Island Spaceport where the majority of sounding rockets are flown and where they have the logistic capability for large rockets launched over the ocean in the proper trajectory for earth orbit. $pacepork can only launch small sounding rockets to White Sands Missile Range. These people are turning a blind eye to that reality just to promote their own agenda, which is not the agenda of the rest of NM or the Real space industry. Spacepork is land locked, and New Mexicans cannot fiscally compete with big players like Alabama which has a real program to expand its already burgeoning space business. Just go look for yourselves. Unfortunately this is only a futile attempt to keep up with the Joneses. NM needs to put its money into our education system and childhood development–that is not a competition and it gives greater returns!

  • aa jondo

    The two counties only did a $119 million bond, and now have GRT’s of 8.5% in Sierra, the poorest county in the state and the home of $pacepork, and 8.33% in DA, the fastest growing county in the state spurred by healthcare, transportation, and business partnerships with Mexico. The cost is now up to $250 million, and we have progressively been losing more and more each year growing to $7 million annual loss. Sierra needs to lose the $pacepork and DA has not at all suffered from the failure of $pacepork.

  • Ron Fenn

    Just like the Casino industry and its large financial draw, adding any more just dilutes the market and does not create business. This country has more than enough launch facilities to handle the load and our “build it and they will come”, Field of Dreams, philosophy has created this Field of Nightmares reality for the citizens of the state and especially for Sierra and Dona Ana county residents. Competition is an important ingredient in the business world but too much creates failures, as the all too apparent lack of meaningful progress at Spaceport America exemplifies.
    Spaceport Tourism as hyped is a joke but not funny enough fora good laugh. The quality of life in T or C for instance has been reduced in the pursuit of a Space related economic panacea.
    Put your feet back on the ground and start working on the less glamorous problems we face here on earth, so more can Eat Drink and be Merry before we die.

  • MzUnGu

    Only way to go, if it is to compete with Midland, Texas for the Space Biz. LOL Glad it wan’t my tax dollars.