Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic: The Numbers Never Added Up

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)

Fourteen years ago, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico promised “tens of thousands” of tourists would fly to space from Spaceport America by 2019. Total thus far: 0.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

When they announced in December 2005 that Virgin Galactic would locate its space tourism business in New Mexico, Virgin Founder Richard Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson made a number of eye-popping claims about why taxpayers should back a plan to build the Southwest Regional Spaceport to serve as the space tourism company’s home base:

  • $331 million in total construction revenues in 2007;
  • 2,460 construction-related jobs;
  • $1 billion in total spending, payroll of $300 million and 2,300 jobs by the fifth year of operation; and,
  • $750 million in total revenues and more than 3,500 jobs by 2020.

Virgin Galactic would sign a 20-year lease as anchor tenant and pay fees based on the number of launches it conducted. New Mexico would use the spaceport, Virgin’s presence and the funds generated to develop a large aerospace cluster.

Surprisingly, New Mexico would spend more money, $225 million, to develop a facility now known as Spaceport America than the $108 million that Branson planned to spend on developing a fleet of five SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

Among all the big numbers in the announcement, there was a truly astounding one that was deemed so important it was mentioned twice. (Emphasis added)


U.S. Space Lead Continues to Decline in Futron Space Competitiveness Index

BETHESDA, Mary. (Futron PR) — We are pleased to announce the publication of our new report:

Futron’s 2014 Space Competitiveness Index: A Comparative Analysis of How Countries Invest in and Benefit from Space Industry

Among our 2014 findings:

  • The United States remains the leader in space competitiveness, but is the only nation to decline for seven straight years. As other countries enhance their space capabilities while the U.S. navigates uncertain transitions, its currently unique convening power in setting the global space agenda is not guaranteed.

This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston….

1. Monday, Dec.3, 2012, 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back Futron’s DAVID VACCARO and JONATHAN BELAND to discuss the Futron 2012 Space Competitive Report. The Executive Summary is a free download from here:

2. Tuesday, December 4 , 2012, 7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. MARTIN SCHWAB to discuss his new certificate courses for Kepler Space Institute Online/Kepler Space University. He has developed KSU 715, Celestial Leadership: Advancing Humans beyond Low Earth Orbit and co-developed with Robert Frantz, President of Kepler Space University, KSU 200, Critical Thinking: Alternative Energies – Traditional Economics.

3. Friday December 7, 2012, 9:30-11 AM PST (11:30- 1 PM CST, 12:30PM-2:00 PM EST): We welcome back DR. BOB BRODSKY regarding his new book “Catch a Rocket Plane: More Tales from the Cutting Edge, and Beyond.”

4. Sunday, December 9, 2012, 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST). We welcome back DR. MICHAEL SIMPSON AND LANGDON MORRIS to discuss specific chapters & the book in general, “International Cooperation For The Development of Space.” This is the latest book published by the Aerospace Technology Working Group (ATWG). Mr. Morris is one of the book’s editors and Dr. Simpson, Executive Director of the SWF, authored Chapter 2 in Part 1, “Broadening the Base: Cooperation As A Springboard For New Participants In the Space Sector.”