Review of Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight

Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight
by Joe Pappalardo
The Overlook Press
240 pages
2018

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Most travel books promote exciting locales such as Paris, Machu Pichu or Bali that people actually want to visit to relax and escape the pressures of life in the 21st century.

Joe Pappalardo had a different idea for his travelogue. The contributing editor for Popular Mechanics decided to visit various spaceports and rocket test sites to gauge how commercial space is transforming the industry.

Pappalardo’s travels take him from the sandy beaches of Florida and Virginia to the desolate deserts of the American Southwest and steaming jungles of French Guiana. Along the way, we meet everyone from Elon Musk to the crew at Masten Space Systems and the local gentry in the various towns adjoining these facilities.

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New Laws Unlock Exciting Space Era for UK

LONDON (UKSA PR) — New laws are set to get Royal Assent today (15 March 2018) which will unlock an exciting era of British space innovation, exploration and investment.

The Space Industry Bill will enable the first commercial space launch from UK soil in history, creating the potential for hundreds of highly-skilled jobs and bringing in billions of pounds for the economy.

The passing of the Bill, the most modern piece of space industry legislation anywhere in the world, means British businesses will soon be able to compete in the commercial space race using UK spaceports.

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Group Launches Campaign to Protect Cumberland Island from Proposed Spaceport

WOODBINE, Ga. (Protect Cumberland Island PR) — The Cumberland Island National Seashore is a national treasure that is enjoyed by over 60,000 visitors per year. The Board of Commissioners of Camden County, Georgia is attempting to obtain a license for a commercial spaceport that will require rockets to be launched directly over the National Seashore. This ill-advised plan puts the Cumberland Island National Seashore and coastal marshlands in peril from exploding rockets, environmental contamination and other significant risks. The proposed spaceport would be the first and only spaceport in the United States where rockets are launched over a national park with active visitation and private homes.

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UK Space Launch Program Receives £50 Million Boost in Government’s Industrial Strategy

LONDON (UKSA PR) — A £50 million [$66.7 million] programme to enable new satellite launch services and low gravity spaceflights from UK spaceports will boost the economy and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Business Secretary Greg Clark announced the plans today (Monday 27 November) as he launched the Government’s ambitious Industrial Strategy. This sets out a long-term vision for how Britain can build on its economic strengths, address its productivity performance, embrace technological change and support businesses and workers.

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UK Space Agency Launch Tour ’17

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency is touring the country with industry workshops and public open evenings on LaunchUK – the campaign to enable small satellite rocket launches and sub-orbital flights from UK spaceports.

The Government wants to make the UK a world-leading destination for companies offering launch services. New legislation to regulate launch is currently before Parliament and in early 2018 the UK Space Agency will announce the outcome of its call for grant proposals to achieve low cost access to space. In total 26 proposals were submitted to the call, and the UK Space Agency is currently considering grant applications to support the first launches from UK soil.

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Research & Innovation Park Proposed for Spaceport Camden

Research and innovation park (Credit: Spaceworks Enterprises)

WOODBINE, Ga., November 6, 2017 (Spaceport Camden PR) – The Camden County Board of Commissioners released a report finding that a Spaceport Camden Innovation and Research Park will lead to expanded job growth and investment benefits for Camden County residents, as well as outside aeronautical firms looking to launch new projects. County leaders requested the analysis from Astralytical, a space analytics firm, to assess the opportunities an aerospace research park would provide.

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Australian Spaceport Plan Advances

A plan to build a spaceport to support small satellite launches has moved forward in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The Northern Land Council has granted a 275-hectare lease in northeast Arnhem Land to the Gumatj clan for use as a commercial rocket launching facility.

That’ll pave the way for Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation to sublease the site to Equatorial Launch Australia, a firm whose $236 million space base proposal is being considered by federal and NT infrastructure funds.

The 12-year lease has an option for a 28-year extension, and is expected to be finalised later this month.

The Arnhem Space Centre could be operational within a year, and would be the only facility of its kind in the south-east Asia region.

Equatorial Launch Australia says they have not finalized any orbital rockets to be launched from the spaceport. Initially, suborbital sounding rockets will be flown from there.

UTEP Experts to Study Feasibility of Spaceport in the Azores

Darren Cone, executive director for UTEP’s Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR); College of Engineering Dean Theresa Maldonado, Ph.D.; UTEP alumnus and former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas, Ph.D., and Nathaniel Robinson with the University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects. (Credit: UTEP)

 

EL PASO, Texas (UTEP PR) — A group of space experts at University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was awarded $85,000 to study the potential installation of a new generation of space launching services in Portugal. The team is led by Nathaniel Robinson with the University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects and includes UTEP alumnus and former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas, Ph.D., and Darren Cone, executive director for UTEP’s Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR).

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Spaceport Camden Adds General to Steering Committee

WOODBINE, Ga., Oct. 16, 2017 (Spaceport Camden PR) — Major General Robert S. Dickman, the former commander of the 45 Space Wing and Director of the Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral, FL is joining the Spaceport Camden Steering Committee.

An executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics, General Dickman also served as vice commander of what is now the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, CO, responsible for operating all Air Force on-orbit satellite systems; Director of Air Force Space Systems in the Pentagon; the first Department of Defense Space Architect; the senior military officer at the National Reconnaissance Office and the Deputy for Military Space in the office of the Undersecretary of the Air Force.

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Investigative Series on Spaceport America Ends With a Whimper

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

The fifth and final installment of NMPolitics.net’s series on Spaceport America was published today: After years of delays, Virgin Galactic prepares for spaceflights from NM

The story mostly features interviews with Virgin Galactic officials outlining their plans to start commercial operations from New Mexico. There will be a series of additional flight tests in Mojave, Calif., and then SpaceShipTwo will move down to Spaceport America for some additional tests before the start of commercial flights. Richard Branson has been prediction ticket holders will start flying in 2018.

In other words, nothing we haven’t been hearing for years and years, albeit with a shiny new set of dates.

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How Much Secrecy Does Spaceport America Need?

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The fourth installment of NMPolitics.net’s five-part series on Spaceport America was published today. How much secrecy does Spaceport America need?

Picking up on a theme covered in the third installment, this story details the lengths to which Spaceport America officials have gone to keep secret details of deals they have concluded with tenants.

“If you were to ask them would they want their leases out in the public they would say no,” [New Mexico Spaceport Authority CEO Dan] Hicks said. “…We just don’t want to have additional burdens on them or scrutiny on them.”

That’s a controversial stance in a poor state that has invested more than $220 million in Spaceport America – a state whose law intends that the public be given access to “the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government,” which it calls “an essential function of a representative government.”

There’s a real tension created by the public/private partnership that is the spaceport. On one hand, greater secrecy may help attract companies that demand it, and with them may come good-paying jobs the state needs. On the other hand is the principle that opening the spaceport’s finances builds accountability and public trust that is key to winning the government funding on which the spaceport also depends.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, sponsored legislation on behalf of the spaceport earlier this year that would have let the agency keep rent payments, trade secrets and other information secret. One committee approved the bill, but then it died.

These days Papen says she supports withholding company trade secrets from the public. But she no longer backs secrecy for money coming into the spaceport from private companies.

The spaceport authority didn’t always keep agreement terms secret. For example, Virgin Galactic’s development and lease agreements were released years ago without anything being redacted.

The situation is different at the Mojave Air and Space Port, which is a public general aviation airport run by an elected board. Lease agreements are included in board packets that are available to the public.

The fifth and final installment looking at anchor tenant Virgin Galactic’s preparations for space tourism flights from Spaceport America will be published on Friday.

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Bids for Government Funding Prove Strong Interest in LaunchUK

Summary

  • 26 proposals were submitted in response to the call
  • Proposals came from spaceports all over the UK, working with vehicle operators from the UK, other European nations and the US
  • Multiple proposals have been recommended for further consideration, to ensure any grant funding delivers the best outcome for the UK

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — The number of responses for government funding to support UK spaceflight has highlighted a strong interest in the UK commercial market for small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight. The UK Space Agency’s call for grant proposals to establish initial launch capability in the UK has now concluded, with a number of options being recommended for consideration.

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Mojave: The Once and Future Spaceport

Sunset from the Mojave Air and Space Port on Oct. 30, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

At some point in the next six months, the Mojave Air and Space Port could experience something that not happened here in 13 long years: an actual spaceflight.

Richard Branson is predicting that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity could reach space on a flight test from Mojave by December. For once, his prediction does not appear to be based on unrealistic hopes, the need to reassure customers about delays, or a complete misunderstanding of what is happening on the ground here.

In other words, it’s actually plausible. Whether it will happen on that schedule…that’s another question. Flight test is notoriously unpredictable and very tough on timetables.

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Spaceport America Tax: The Levy that Keeps on Taking

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building with a security fence around it. (Credit: Alex Heard)

Residents of New Mexico’s Dona Ana and Sierra counties will continue to subsidize Spaceport America’s operating budget for at least another year.

The New Mexico Finance Authority agreed to let the spaceport for one year use extra money from the taxes that shoppers pay in two Southern New Mexico counties. But the spaceport wanted the excess tax money in perpetuity, a proposal that the finance authority declined to grant as its chairman raised questions about the facility’s financial strength.

Though some politicians have supported the spaceport’s proposal, others have argued the tax money was only intended to help build the facility, not cover its day-to-day expenses.

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