Mojave Air and Space Port Looks to Expand Activities for Tenants

To boldly go…. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The Mojave Air and Space Port is looking to expand the types of tests and activities that its tenants can undertake at the desert facility.

Last week, the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) Board of Directors approved a plan to hire ICF, Inc. of Fairfax, Va., to conduct a health and safety evaluation as part of the airport’s update of its spaceport license with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Spaceport licenses are updated every five years.

Mojave spaceport Chief Operating Officer Kevin Wojtkiewicz said ICF’s health and safety analysis will look at the impacts of additional tests and activities that tenants at the airport are interested in doing in the future. Once the analysis is completed, the airport will be able to grant approvals to tenants without having to go back to seek permission from the FAA.

Airport officials have been talking with companies about other types of activities they are interested in doing. Wojtkiewicz would not elaborate on specifics, citing confidentiality.

In a letter to Wojtkiewicz, ICF said it had assisted the FAA Office of Commercial Transportation in preparing an environmental assessment of SpaceShipTwo’s powered flights out of Mojave. The FAA gave approval for the test flights, which are set to begin at the end of the year.

ICF has submitted a proposal totaling $103,080 for the assessment. Wojtkiewicz said last week that the final amount is still under negotiation. The EKAD board gave airport officials the authority to complete negotiations and to sign a contract.

Board members also approved three other agreements with companies performing assessments for the spaceport license update.

Wojtkiewicz said the airport is hoping to complete the update in about six months. There is no hard and fast deadline; as long as progress is being made, the facility will be able to continue operating as a spaceport, he added.

The update, which is being led by Northcutt & Associates of Lake Isabella, Calif., will cost nearly $200,000. A breakdown of the costs is shown below.

Northcutt & Associates, Lake Isabella, Calif.National Environmental Policy Act assessment$35,000
Northcutt & Associates, Lake Isabella, Calif.California Environmental Quality Act compliance$7,000
Brown-Buntin Associates, Visalia, Calif.Noise assessment$47,500
ICF, Inc., Fairfax, Va.Health and safety environmental assessment$103,080*

*Subject to change

Most of the costs for the spaceport license update are being shared jointly by the FAA, EKAD and industry under a 50-40-10 split. The airport district can recover 50 percent of the cost under a $250,000 grant it received from the FAA last year. The airport pays 40 percent of the cost from its own pocket while industry pick up the remaining 10 percent.

The only assessment not covered under the FAA grant is the $7,000 cost for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. That airport district covers that cost.

Under the preliminary figures provided above, the airport would pay $81,232 and recover an additional $92,790 under the FAA grant. Industry would pay the $18,558.