Date of First Launch Set for New Mexico Spaceport
SpaceLoft XL vehicle is slated to fly from New Mexico spaceport loaded with high school, university and entrepreneurial payloads.
Credit: UP Aerospace

A launch date has been set for the inaugural flight from the New Mexico Spaceport, a site officials hope will become a new hub for space tourism and other commercial launches.

UP Aerospace, Inc. today set Aug. 14 as the official date for its SpaceLoft XL rocket, which will carry dozens of private and educational experiments and payloads.

"Not only does this commercial space launch mark a new era in America's private space industry, it opens the door to wonderful achievements destined to occur from New Mexico," said Eric Knight, CEO of UP Aerospace (the letters are pronounced "up" as in the opposite of down).

"Our vehicle contains over 50 experiments and payloads from the private and educational sectors, worldwide," Knight said in a statement. "And it's just the first of multiple commercial space launches that we will be conducing.  Another significant space launch is in October, concurrent with this year's X Prize Cup event."

The X Prize Cup is designed to spawn new private passenger-carrying spaceships and foster space tourism.

The plan for Aug. 14 is for the SpaceLoft XL to carry into space several scientific and experimental payloads designed by universities, as well as more than 40 experiments created by high school students.

"To open the space-access door to students at this level, we've partnered with the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) and the National Aerospace Leadership Initiative (NALI)," Knight said. "These organizations have established LaunchQuest- a novel program that lets youngsters conduct their own space-flight research."

The payloads had been previously described by SPACE.com.

Several private payloads, which Knight declined to discuss specifically, will also be onboard. Companies involved include ZG Aerospace, which transports business cards and other personal items into space, and a marketing company in Italy called Realdream Association.

The 20-foot-tall, single-stage, 800-pound SpaceLoft XL solid-fuel rocket will accelerate to five times the speed of sound, or nearly 3,400 mph, in 13.5 seconds. 

Today's announcement represents "the next milestone for the State of New Mexico in continuing our leadership role in the second space age," said Rick Homans, Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department. "This launch will put New Mexico's Spaceport on the map, and will get us one step further towards getting our FAA license."