Spaceport America, Kiruna Enter “Sister Spaceport” Agreement


Officials from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Spaceport Sweden to align with Spaceport America as ‘Sister Spaceports’. Working in collaboration, the two spaceports will increase global cooperation in the commercial space industry, promote cultural understanding and stimulate local economic development, tourism and education.

Located in Kiruna, Sweden, the European spaceport has a mission similar to that of Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. Both spaceports are working with Virgin Galactic, which recently entered into a 20-year lease agreement to build their global headquarters at Spaceport America.

Virgin Galactic is also planning to launch from Spaceport Sweden. Kiruna has a history of space exploration as the site of Esrange Space Center, which is the launch pad for sounding rockets, highaltitude research balloons, and the test facility for new aerospace systems as well as the world’s busiest civil ground station for satellites.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said, “This Memorandum of Understanding is another step forward for Spaceport America and will help us to realize the global potential of commercials space.” The Governors office announced the historic lease agreement with Virgin Galactic on December 31, 2008.

NMSA Executive Director Steve Landeene is excited about the explosive growth of the commercial space industry, and the prospect of working with Spaceport Sweden. “The Swedish Space Corporation and Spaceport Sweden are currently executing missions, and it’s exciting to see increasing interest and activity all over the globe for commercial spaceflight,” he said. “This MOU means that both spaceports can work together to develop and promote the commercial space industry.”

“Spaceport Sweden is well on track, and working with Spaceport America, we feel we can continue to make great progress on regulatory issues and forward our business processes,” said Bengt Jaegtnes, Vice Chairman of Spaceport Sweden. “Our relationship to Spaceport America is important as we all work toward the goal of developing the commercial space industry.”

Jaegtnes and his team attended the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces in 2007 & 2008, where the relationship between the two spaceports began.

“Olle Norberg, Head of Spaceport Sweden, first spoke at ISPCS in 2007,” said Pat Hynes, Chair of ISPCS. “As a result of their participation in our industry conference, we have a maturing relationship that will enable both spaceports to discuss meaningful collaboration in the areas of education, technology and tourism. This is exactly what the ISPCS is supposed to do, grow the international business and commercial space industry. As Director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University, I am thrilled with the educational potential from this collaboration.”

Spaceport America continues to make progress in the state of New Mexico. The project received an FAA Site Operators License in December, giving Spaceport America the ability to conduct vertical launch operations. On December 31, 2008, a 20-year lease agreement was reached between the State of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic to establish their world headquarters in New Mexico.

The architectural firm of URS/Foster + Partners is completing the final design for the terminal and hangar facility, with construction scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2009. Road construction to Spaceport America is already underway.

Spaceport America has been working closely with leading aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Rocket Racing Inc./Armadillo Aerospace, UP Aerospace, Microgravity Enterprises and Payload Specialties. The NMSA currently projects the terminal and hangar facility to be completed by late 2010.