Spaceport Boom?

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While regular airports all over the country struggle for survival, spaceports, which some might argue are a tad less practical, are a growth industry. Oklahoma is the latest to move to the starting line trying to cash in on the private space race. The Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority (OSIDA) was issued a Launch Site Operator Certificate by the FAA for its spaceport at Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark, located adjacent to the town of Burns Flat, Okla. OSIDA spokesman Bill Khourie is predicting big things for the Oklahoma Spaceport. "The dream of many that Oklahoma would become the planet's premier location for the launch and recovery of suborbital reusable space vehicles is now a reality," he told Space.com. Rocketplane Ltd. will be its first space-bound tenant. Rocketplane is developing a suborbital space vehicle that looks like a business jet and behaves like one in the atmosphere. Its two jet engines would allow conventional takeoff and landing capability while the LOX/Kerosene rocket engine aims to provide the kick necessary to reach an altitude of 100 kilometers, the edge of space. Rocketplane hopes to take paying customers to experience "three to four minutes" of weightlessness by next year. (Note: This is something you can do right now, without a spaceship ... for 30-45 seconds at a time ... and less than $4,000 paid to a company devoted to that sort of thing.) The Oklahoma site is the sixth certified spaceport in the U.S. and there will likely be a seventh, soon. Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson is working with the state of New Mexico to establish the base of operations for his company's commercial space venture at Upham, N.M.