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« Jess Sponable: The Air Force View | Main | Office of Space Commercialization »


Stu Witt, Mojave Airport Manager is coming up. Starting with a five-minute video promo of Mojave. "Mojave is a place where dreams are nurtured." Vignette with Jeff Greason at XCOR extolling the "Mojave is a perfect place"--Burt Rutan.

Witt: FAA is responsible for the uninvolved public--we are responsible for the involved public, the people who fly the vehicles and fly in the vehicles. Describing the joint-use operational restricted airspace over Mojave--the largest testing site in the continent. When established by Congress, it was established for both commercial and military use for flight test. Military has been very supportive of civilian flight tests.

They're open 24/7 with a crash fire/rescue division, and support the Air Force at Edwards and Navy at China Lake when it's after hours for them. They're expanding their runways and will have longest commercial runway in Kern County (other than the Edwards lakebed). Has gone from forty percent occupancy to a hundred-plus percent occupancy since the first SS1 engine firing in 2003. A "Silicon Valley"-like atmosphere for cutting-edge space companies. Lots of things going on you never hear about every day. Eight rocket test stands at the airport for thrust up to eighty-thousand pounds, with provisions up to 120,000. Doesn't worry about competition--wants to see spaceports all over the globe. Describing all the companies there: XCOR, AirLaunch, BAE, National Test Pilot School, etc. They also do a lot of filming of movies and commercials, and it's an intermodal freight transport hub. The new 12,500 foot runway can handle any airplane in the world (e.g., fully-loaded 747F from Mojave to Shanghai). Describing all the celebrities who come through (picture of Burt talking to Clint Eastwood about the back nine at Pebble Beach).

Lessons learned: prepare for growth--they had no idea they'd ever have the crowd control issues. There are plans for four thousand houses in Mojave now, which is more than the current population, Get plenty of runway--you can't have enough. If you don't have a lakebed nearby, build one--you'll need it. Only sees three viable spaceport sites in the near term: Utah, New Mexico and California. "Keep your AST sponsor informed." "Keep your local officials informed." On risk: risk and gain must be balanced.

Next talk from Australia's Mark Sonter, discussing a spaceport proposal at Manus Island. Glad to speak at a conference where the focus is getting hmans into space. Manus Island is the northernmost island of Papua New Guinea (staging area for MacArthur's invasion fleet of the Phillipines). It has an airstrip that's an emergency site for Australia-Japan traffic. There was a proposal in the early nineties for launching Protons or Zenits from it, so there's history (locals had exhibited enthusiasm for it, but viewed as "too adventurous" by internaional banking community). Good equatorial site (some interest in LEO comsats for equatorial coverage. Can double GEO payload compared to Khazahkstan. Maximizes performance to orbit, and would be a good launch site for an equatorial LEO infrastructure. Sees SSPS as the big market. If it can compete economically, will pay for colonization of space. Showing picture of Mankins' power tower. Discusses other possible equatorial sites. Not very many good ones, Kourou the only one that's active. Alcontera a possibility, but most other than Kourou are done by sea launches. Proposing a small basic launch facility, and then seeing if it can grow.

Chuck Lauer sitting in for Bill Curry, head of Oklahoma Spaceport (who has come down with pneumonia). Rocketplane was going for "O-Prize" (a tax incentive from the State of Oklahoma) rather than the X-Prize, and got it. Oklahoma spaceport started out as a potential X-33 port (when people were naive enough to believe the Lockmart scam). Oklahoma remembers the potential, even if it didn't pan out. There's a B-52 SAC base that was closed down in the 1970s, and they've been trying to figure out what to do with it since. Established Oklahoma Spaceport Authority, modeled on the Disney deal in Orlando. When X-33 died, Oklahoma was "all dressed up, with nobody to go to the dance with." Rocketplane provided a letter of intent on letterhead in 2000 which enabled the Space Authority to get up and running. They want jobs and economic development. Provided a modified tax credit targeted at entrepreneurs (transferable fifty-percent R&D tax credit spread over five years, which they sold to a bank to raise money). Now reshowing slides from previous day's talks on Rocketplane progress. Site got its license from FAA on June 16th. Seven miles off I-40, so potential for tourist traffic, and hoping for growth as the space plane starts to fly. Lots of room for other people--Armadillo is testing now.

A brief talk about "Spaceport New Jersey." "Sounds like a ridiculous idea, and may end up being that." New Jersey Spaceport could take advantage of proximity to large cities, NJ has a lot of infrastructure, with Atlantic City Coast Guard facilities and FAA facilities. Thinks that spaceports may evolve differently than airports. For tourism, takeoffs and landings may be different locations. Building a team at Rutgers with necessary backgrounds, and pursuing the idea.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 22, 2006 11:38 AM
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