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New Mexico Inks Spaceport Funding Package

New MexicoGovernor Bill Richardson has signed new pieces of legislation--bills that pushforward work on New Mexico's spaceport. In addition, the state has set inmotion a potential investment deal to attract a space entrepreneurial firm towork in the area.

As aresult of a legislative session last month, New Mexico is now able to invest$110 million in building what's labeled as the world's first "purposebuilt" spaceport to be located in Upham, New Mexico.

Thespaceport site is approximately 27 square miles of open, generally level, rangeland in southern New Mexico that has been picked for its low populationdensity, uncongested airspace, and high elevation.

New Mexico lawmakers agreedlast month to spend $100 million dollars over the next three years to build thespaceport. The other $10 million dollars in previous funding is availableto help move forward on the request for proposal process for the design andconstruction of the spaceport.

Newbills

GovernorRichardson signed on March 1 two bills that further the spaceport'sdevelopment:

-- HouseBill 89: Creates one entity, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, to oversee thespaceport.

-- HouseBill 473: Allows local communities--those that will significantly be impacted bythe creation of the spaceport--to ask their voters if they want to support thespaceport and related development through a new local options gross receipttax.

LastDecember, Richardson and Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Companiesannounced a partnership to build the world's first commercial spaceport.Branson's Virgin Galactic will locate its world headquarters and missioncontrol for its personal spaceflight business at the spaceport.

Investingin space firms

Last week, Richardson signed House Bill 835 that allows the State Investment Office toinvest in New Mexico aerospace companies that receive more than $100 million infunding from federal agencies like NASA.

The NewMexico State Investment Council preliminarily approved on February 28 apotential investment deal with one space entrepreneurial company that iscompeting for a share of $500 million in contracts from NASA to providecommercial crew and cargo launch services.

CharlesWollmann, Public Information Officer for the Council told SPACE.com that thegroup has okayed an investment of up to $20 million in Transformational SpaceCorporation LLC (t/Space) of Reston, Virginia, "contingent on the awardingof a contract by NASA, and negotiation of final terms and conditions." Thespace firm would also need to move to New Mexico, he said.

Recentlegislation signed by Governor Richardson enables the State Investment Councilto invest in aerospace companies like t/Space, Wollmann added, should theyreceive a government contract of $100 million or greater. 

"Ourinvestment is limited to 10% of the total contract, i.e. if it is $150 millioncontract, New Mexico can invest up to $15 million," Wollmann explained.

"t/Spaceis delighted to have the State of New Mexico as a partner," said BrettAlexander, t/Space VicePresident for Government Relations. "New Mexico has been very supportive of our efforts," he told SPACE.com, with the groupenthusiastic about locating its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services(COTS) development work there.

Oklahoma spaceport action

In arelated spaceport development, progress is also being made on operating acommercial launch facility at the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark located inBurns Flat, Oklahoma.

TheFederal Aviation Administration (FAA) Associate Administrator for CommercialSpace Transportation (AST) has prepared a 253-page draft EnvironmentalAssessment for the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority's proposal tolaunch reusable launch vehicles horizontally on suborbital trajectories.

The launchfacility may be used to launch piloted vehicles or vehicles carrying otherpayloads. Also under consideration is rocket engine testing at the site.

Aspaceport in the area is of particular interest to Oklahoma-based Rocketplane,hard at work on building its suborbital XP vehicle intended to haul payingpassengers to the edge of space in 2007.

The FAAhas invited all those interested to take part in a public hearing on using thesite to support space launchings. The hearing will be held at 7:30 PM,Thursday, March 9, 2006 at the South Western Oklahoma Development Authority, Western Technology Center located in Burns Flat, Oklahoma.

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