There’s just a few weeks left in the year for “Spaceport America” to do … something. Anything.
So far in 2017, the “nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport” has sent neither suborbital nor orbital payloads aloft. No satellites were put in service, and no tourists enjoyed a few minutes of weightlessness. Once again, even UP Aerospace wasn’t able to launch a sounding rocket.
The highlight of the spaceport’s year? The University of California sent the USC Fathom II to 144,000 feet, in what might have been the highest altitude ever attained for a student rocket. (Before you get too excited, the official boundary marking the line between the atmosphere and space is 330,000 feet.)
Virgin Galactic is promising “to ramp up its commercial flight service” in 2018, “moving nearly 100 families to the state and creating new jobs along the way.” We’ll see. The original plan was to start operations as soon as 2008.
Errors of Enchantment has explored the recent legal woes of ARCA Space’s founder. Despite the spaceport’s constant claims, SpaceX doesn’t appear to be doing much, if anything, at the facility. In October, “World View Enterprises completed the first launch of one of its stratospheric balloons … from the Spaceport Tucson site south of Tucson International Airport.” A few days ago Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, with no plans to come to New Mexico, ran a test of its third New Shepard booster, this time with its “new Crew Capsule 2.0.”
In 2015, State Sen. George Munoz drafted a bill requiring the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to “develop and put into place … a marketing plan that will advertise and promote the sale of Spaceport America to potential national and international buyers.” Nothing’s changed since then. The spaceport should be privatized — at any price — immediately.