New Mexico On The Heels Of Oklahoma's Race For Space - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

New Mexico On The Heels Of Oklahoma's Race For Space

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The Oklahoma Spaceport is pictured. The Oklahoma Spaceport is pictured.
Construction of New Mexico's Spaceport America is pictured. Construction of New Mexico's Spaceport America is pictured.

Rusty Surette, News 9

BURNS FLAT, Oklahoma -- Every year thousands of Oklahomans' tax dollars go to a space hub that sits out in the middle of western Oklahoma, but folks in New Mexico are claiming to be the first to build such a place.

It's called Spaceport America. Funded by tax payers and private industry, this $200 million facility is being dubbed as the world's first commercial spaceport, but that claim can easily be debated.

In Burns Flat sits the Oklahoma Spaceport. The facility specializes in horizontal take-off and landing for Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLVs).

The Oklahoma Spaceport received its Launch Site Operators License from the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) on June 12, 2006, becoming only the sixth recipient to receive a Launch Site Operators License from AST. The Oklahoma Spaceport became the first inland spaceport to establish a flight corridor for space operations in the national airspace system clear of military operating areas or restricted airspace.

There's a lot the Oklahoma Spaceport has to offer that Spaceport America only hopes to offer.

There is, however, one thing the New Mexico-based project has that the Oklahoma Spaceport doesn't have, and that's support from the people and state leaders.

Critics said taxpayer dollars are going to waste at the Oklahoma Spaceport. Others said funding should be eliminated altogether for the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority.

The agency's executive director disagrees.

"We need more people to fully understand what the Oklahoma Spaceport is about, what it's capabilities are, how it can bring economic impact to Oklahoma and all the other opportunities it can bring to our state," said Bill Khourie.

Funding for the agency has dwindled recently.

On Wednesday, the board voted to suspend traveling expenses given to members who drive to Oklahoma City for its monthly meetings.

In the same meeting, the board approved the completion of a video project expected to cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

"We need that video to show others what we have to offer here in Oklahoma," said Khourie.

OSIDA has been working with several companies to bring more activity and business to the Oklahoma Spaceport.

In New Mexico, Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Company has taken the lead at Spaceport America. A year or so from now, a mother ship is scheduled to roll down the runway, liftoff, at 50,000 feet, release a space plane. The six passengers and two pilots will reach 350,000 feet and weightlessness for four minutes.

The flight is expected to cost about $200,000.

By next summer, the three-story center piece building should be completed.

For New Mexico, the venture is a risk, but so far, more than 350 people have put down deposits or paid in full for the two hour Virgin Galactic flight.

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