20 June 2009

Spaceport America is launched: Officials mark beginning of construction

Note that while this spaceport is being financed by the state, Virgin Galactic is investing some 250 million in spacecraft to use the facility. We're still waiting for that private business investment in the KLC - state and federal funding and still not able to cover operation costs with launch revenues (no launches = no revenues).
Note the comments near the end of the article made by Roberto Valdez - think of commercial fishing in Alaska and you'll see the parallels.
KLC continues to beg for more and more federal taxpayer funding because it is unable to attract any private, commercial interest or investment. The facility should never have been built until it could be proved that commercial launches would actually occur.

By Diana M. Alba / Las Cruces Sun-News
Posted: 06/20/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT

Conquistadores face a new frontier. Modern-day adventures broke ground Friday at Upham, N.M., for Spaceport America, the first commercial spaceport to take people into outer space. Roberto Valdez, of Espanola, leads a group dressed as conquistadores who came with Don Juan de Onate to the new frontier of New Mexico in 1598. (Norm Dettlaff / Sun-News)
Space ride
If you could afford it, would you take a ride into space? Read story
Yes, in a heartbeat.
Absolutely, to infinity and beyond.
No, I like to keep my feet on the ground.
No, because it will never be affordable for me.

UPHAM, N.M. -- Against the slate-blue backdrop of the San Andres Mountains, officials on Friday symbolically marked the start of construction on Spaceport America and launched a new era of adventure for mankind: commercial space travel.

Spaceport officials have said they expect the $200 million project to wrap up in 18 to 24 months, and an official with the space flight company Virgin Galactic said it could send the first tourists into space in two years, depending on how quickly technology develops.

Gov. Bill Richardson said the spaceport is possible because of investments on the part of the state and Virgin Galactic, which is putting about $250 million into creating the spacecraft that will be used.

"We took a risk, we gambled and we won," he said.

Some people expressed disappointment that a planned flyover by WhiteKnightTwo -- the carrier vehicle for Virgin Galactic's spaceship -- didn't take place. It was en route to New Mexico from its California base when pilots decided to land it in Phoenix because of a technical concern.

But spaceport officials announced that the plane would fly over the Las Cruces International Airport at 9:30 a.m. today. The public can attend.

Speakers said the project would be not only a platform to launch tourists into space, but also an avenue for developing new technologies and science that will benefit humanity.

Spaceport Authority Executive Director Steve Landeene said the possibilities include space-based telecommunications
and solar power.

"This is reality, and it will happen," he said. "The people who say it can't happen -- that's the wrong type of attitude."

The spaceport, situated southeast of Truth or Consequences, will feature a runway, terminal, hangars and supporting infrastructure.

The groundbreaking began with 10 members of the group Sociedad de la Entrada, which re-enacts events from New Mexican history, marching through the desert in Spanish conquistador costumes. After speeches by officials, a road-grader ceremonially cleared the first patch of dirt. Then Richardson scooped a miniature shovel of dirt and placed it in a model rocket, which was launched into the sky.

The people attending were enthusiastic and snapped photographs.

Jerry Johnson of Alamogordo said those photographs would be important someday, after the spaceport is established.

"If you got tape of what things looked like today, 10 years from now, people won't believe it looked like that," he said.

But support wasn't entirely unanimous.

Roberto Valdez of EspaƱola, a member of Sociedad de la Entrada, said he has doubts about the project, mostly because he believes other industries that have been established in New Mexico -- he cited the movie industry, the nuclear industry and the national laboratories -- have exploited the state's resources and brought little benefit to native residents.

"I remain skeptical about the spaceport," he said. "As the saying goes: 'Behind every spearhead, there's a shaft.' Behind every endeavor, somebody gets the short end of the stick."

Spaceport officials estimated about 460 people attended the groundbreaking. They were shuttled in from Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces in tour buses.

Diana M. Alba can be reached at dalba@lcsun-news.com; 575- 541-5443

By the numbers
# $200 million -- cost of building Spaceport America.
# 18 to 24 months -- expected length of time to construct the project.
# 10,000 feet -- length of the runway to be built at the spaceport.
Source: New Mexico Spaceport Authority


Anonymous said...

How is it that you overlook and choose to ignore all the commercial business generated by KLC? Ask the hotels, car rental agencies, local restaurants and stores how much they appreciate the extra income during a launch. Granted there aren't many launches, which you do complain about, but seems to me like KLC is working toward expanding their capabilities so they can support more launches. With expansion...jobs. Jobs for local Kodiak residents and non residents who will move in.

Also, look how many other benefits there are from the existence of KLC. The paved roads, cell phone towers with cell coverage all the way to the end of the road now, KLC supplied and maintained porta-potties at the Pasagshak State Park.

The benefits? Ask Brechan and any other local contractors how they feel about the steady projects going their way. Ask the homeowners at Pasagshak how the paved roads and cell towers have benefited them...increased property value?

If you are going to maintain a blog supported by the Kodiak Launch Complex INFORMATION Group, then why don't you start blogging about all of the site's information rather than just what you filter through in an effort to denounce their site.

Nil said...

A great example of how government can partner with private business to create a viable business venture. The Kodiak Launch Complex appears to be the opposite: nothing but corporate welfare - if it's been over 200 days since the last launch, what do the people who work there do? Are they laid off, do they sit around with nothing to do, is there maintenance work being done?

Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group said...

The alleged "benefits" of the KLC have hardly been ignored by local and state media and magazines like the Alaska Business Monthly; part of our mission is to provide an alternate point of view. No need for us to duplicate their slant.
Note that a direct link to AADC is provided on this blog for anyone wishing to read their point of view.
Keep in mind that all the economic benefits reports we've seen are based entirely on information provided solely by AADC without independent verification.
And the "jobs" word - all these jobs are dependent on federal funds since AADC admits that launch revenues do not even cover the cost of operating the Kodiak Launch Complex. The feds drop their funding and the jobs go away. It's kinda like welfare.
And many (if not most) of those AADC & KLC jobs went to folks who moved to Kodiak for the job; what about the folks in Kodiak who need jobs and aren't served by the KLC?
As to the benefits - we like to ask people three questions:
"Have you seen an increase in goods and/or services in Kodiak due to the KLC?" and
"Have you seen a decrease in the costs of goods and services in Kodiak due to the KLC?" and, finally,
"Have you personally benefited financially from the KLC?"
A small portion of Kodiak residents have benefited from the KLC; that is undeniable. But at what cost?
More and more of Narrow Cape is being dug up and fenced in. Storing more rockets will likely mean increased security and decreased access to the only public land on the road system. (most other land used for recreation on the road system is claimed or owned by native corporations: Termination Point, Olds River, etc)
Remember the land grab attempt a few years ago? AADC tried to buy up much of the land surround the KLC, taking it out of public land status. If that happened, camping wouldn't be an issue - it have been banned. KRLIG members helped galvanize local opposition and pressure our legislative representatives to stop this move.
Mike Martin's testimony to the Assembly about the gravel pit makes it clear that Brechan has plenty of work in Kodiak without the KLC.
Rental cars - almost all of the personnel who come to Kodiak for launches are driving vehicles from the USCG motor pool.
Charters? Many of the charter operators have told us they see no charters from launch support personnel.
Lodging? Many people renting dwellings at Pasagshak to launch support personnel have been doing so in violation of Borough code, operating without business licenses and not paying the Borough bed tax.
Paving? Wouldn't paving the road to Chiniak first have served more Kodiakans, especially the commuters?
Cell phone service? The state and federal funding poured into the KLC is well over 60 million dollars - that's a high price to pay to be able to text my BFF.
If you have lived in Kodiak since 1995, you know that many of the promises made by AADC have not been kept.
Scientists in the schools? Remember how rocket scientists would be visiting the schools, inspiring our kids. Didn't happen (although they do bring classes out to tour the little-used facility and shoot off a couple of model rockets).
Overall, it's a waste of our taxes.

Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group said...

At a time when Kodiak desperately needs a new high school and funding for a new jail, it's a travesty to see millions of federal dollars go the KLC based on the "build it and they will come" scenario which AADC has touted for 14 years: they still ain't showed up - no private commercial launches and all but one of the rockets they have launched could have been launched from a portable launcher on a concrete slab.
The state of Alaska paid ten million dollars for "Faulty Tower", the launch tower standing directly on a major earthquake fault. It's been used for only one launch.
So, the title of our blog pretty much sets up the reader for our point of view on the whole thing.
Perhaps someone should create a blog to tout the benefits of the KLC. We'd love to comment on the posts.
Finally, as to our anonymity - Kodiak citizens who oppose the KLC have been subject to vicious, unwarranted personal attacks simply for asking difficult questions and daring to think that perhaps the KLC wasn't the best thing for our community. No one deserves that sort of abuse; the blog shields us from such attacks (which we won't publish in the comment section if we receive them).