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Spaceport America talks commercial space flights, introduces new tenants

On June 21, 2017, Spaceport America announced it's vision and direction ahead. They talked about how the facility is being used and about commercial space flights. Credit: KFOX14 / CBS4

New Mexico is getting closer to commercial space travel, according to officials at the Spaceport America facility in Truth or Consequences.

Flights to space on Virgin Galactic were supposed to begin in 2014, but were delayed.

On Wednesday, Spaceport America announced it's vision and direction ahead. They talked about how the facility is being used and about commercial space flights.

"We have access to space 24/7," said Dan Hicks, CEO at Spaceport America.

He said more companies are becoming interested in the site for space testing.

"One of the key attributes we have is restricted airspace," he said. "So from surface to unlimited, we have a partnership with White Sands Missile Range and the Department of Defense."

Virgin Galactic was the first anchor tenant at the facility.

Hicks said there are now five tenants.

Jonathan Firth is the executive vice president of Spaceport America and talked about Virgin Galactic's strategy for space travel.

"We have our flight test system, going through flight tests right now," Firth said. "We have a new spaceship that we've built, we've been testing it for 9 months now in flight tests and we're going to continue doing that for the rest of this year, and probably into the early part of next year."

KFOX14 asked when the first commercial space flight would happen. But Firth said they're not releasing a time frame.

"The approach now is that when we're ready, we'll fly, and we're not going to announce a date ahead of time," Firth said.

Both Firth and Hicks said they believe New Mexico is beginning to feel the economic impact the Spaceport America facility is bringing to the state.

"Just the rent payments, and you know the user fees that we've paid to the Spaceport already exceeds $7 million so far," Firth said. "If you look at our relationship with New Mexico, supplies in general, and other things that we need, we've looked locally wherever possible. We've spent more than $9 million dollars."

Mark Russell is the founder and CEO of the company Pipeline2Space. The company began using Spaceport America back in April to further a project of its own.

"Flying on demand here , and that's really the key here," he said. "Because of its proximity to White Sands Missile Range, you are able to fly when you want to, and we want to fly on a five minute metronome."

Russell said this New Mexico facility has given him opportunities to further his project that he wouldn't have had otherwise.

He also said he feels his company is contributing to the New Mexico economy as his project pushes ahead.

"We need to put holes in the ground, and we need to create infrastructure, and we need to create operations teams that live, work and go to school right here in New Mexico," Russell said.

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