Lonnie Sumpter, New Mexico Spaceport Leader Dead at 58

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico - Akey figure in supporting and planning New Mexico's Spaceport America has died.

LonnieSumpter died Tuesday, a visionary that was a vigorous, long-time supporter ofspace development within the state. At the time of his death at 58 he wasexecutive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

"Lonniewas a true public servant and dedicated the last 15 years of his life tobuilding a new space industry in New Mexico," said New Mexico Governor BillRichardson in a statement on Sumpter's death.

"Asexecutive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority he was a pioneer inhis profession and a valued member of my Administration," Richardson said.

New Mexico's Spaceport America is to be built 30 miles east of Truth or Consequences and 45miles north of Las Cruces and expected to cost a total of some $225 million toconstruct. Among its users, it will be home base for Sir Richard Branson'ssuborbital spaceliner operations flying under the Virgin Galactic flag.


Asthe world's first "purpose-built" spaceport, the sprawling complex is also abusiness-oriented spaceport, Sumpter told attendees of the 2nd InternationalSymposium for Personal Spaceflight, held in Las Cruces last October.

Sumptertook pride in his work on Spaceport America, underscoring the road ahead inobtaining a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration's spacetransportation office.

Spaceport America is a phased construction project, Sumpter explained at the gathering.During its build-up, limited launch operations will be undertaken, he said.

Onceon-line in 2010, Spaceport America "will be well on its way, we think, tobecoming the busiest space launch facility in the world," Sumpter explained.

RickHomans, Chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and Cabinet Secretary ofEconomic Development for the state noted that Sumpter "set the bar very, veryhigh for all of those who will follow."

"Aswe move forward, we will keep Lonnie in our thoughts and honor his memory withthe success of the spaceport, which was his dream from the very start," Homanssaid in a press statement.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.