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New Mexico Voters Defeat Spaceport America Measure

New Mexico Spaceport Seeks Voter Support
Spaceport America is to blossom in New Mexico, a commercial venture to support suborbital and orbital access to space of passengers, satellites, and cargo. It is to be home base for Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceline operations.
(Image: © URS/Foster + Partners)

Residents of Otero Countyin New Mexico have defeated a Spaceport America tax increase to help build an inlandspaceport that will serve as the launching ground for commercial spacecraft.

Reports from the fieldthere say Tuesday?s election tally show that 52.3 percent voted against thetax; 47.7 percent voted for the tax.

While not impactingSpaceport America as far as moving forward, the Otero non-support meansthere will be less money for operations. Officials have said the initialestimate cost to build the spaceport 45 miles (72.4 km) north of Las Cruces,NM, is about $198 million, with a cap set for $225 million.

Earlier, both Dona AnaCounty and Sierra County approved a tax increase meaning that Spaceport Americawill proceed. However, the Otero vote for the tax increase would have raisedsome $2.3 million for the effort, with that county becoming part of a triad ofsupport to build the facility.

Britishbillionaire Sir Richard Branson has tapped Spaceport America to serve asthe launching ground for his Virgin Galactic spaceliners, a fleet of privatelybuild suborbital spaceships that will launch passengers on space tourism treksfor about $200,000 per seat. Hardware for the air-launched SpaceShipTwo vehiclesand their WhiteKnightTwo mothership are under construction at Scaled Compositesin Mojave, California.

The spaceport is alsoexpected to be home base for a separate venture to fly passengers aboard anew fleet of reusable vertical take-off and landing craft for about$100,000 per ticket. The first piloted flights of the unique, bubble-likespacecraft are slated to begin in 2010.

The new joint venture betweenRocket Racing, Inc., and Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas, was announcedlast month at the LunarLander Challenge in Las Cruces, where the Armadillo team won $350,000 inthe NASA-sponsored moon lander contest.

While the Otero County votemay have failed to support Spaceport America, the process is still underway tobring it closer to reality. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currentlyreviewing Spaceport America's license application.

SPACE.com staffcontributed to this report from New York City.

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