Gearing up for what officials hope will be commercial spaceflights by Virgin Galactic next year, Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks asked legislators last week for an additional $700,000 for the facility’s annual operating budget and $7.76 for new facilities, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.
Hicks said that for several years, the spaceport operated on a flat $375,000 annual allocation from the Legislature. Last year, the allocation was increased by $976,000. The state funding accounted for only about 20 percent of the spaceport’s total budget, Hicks said. The rest came from fees paid by companies operating out of the spaceport….
If the state approves the additional funding next year, the majority of it will go to new staff, Hicks said. For example, they only have one airspace manager now, and need to add a second, he said.
Hicks said activity is picking up at the spaceport, and that is expected to increase next year as Virgin Galactic finally begins planned space tourism launches from the facility.
“Last year we had five companies, and a couple reaching out to us. For this year, we have nine nondisclosure agreements, and another dozen companies talking to us,” Hicks said, adding that the nondisclosure agreement does not ensure that all nine companies will sign a contract with the spaceport. But three are in the contract phase now, he said.
Hicks also said the spaceport would be seeking an additional $7.76 million over four years from the state in capital outlay funding that would pay for:
- payload integration processing facility;
- new hangar;
- visitor center;
- aircraft taxiway;
- electrical and communications upgrades for the vertical launch area;
- new roadways;
- concrete pad for balloon launches; and,
- facilities for engine thrust testing.