Space Tourism: Spaceport Proposals Proliferate

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Although a passenger-carrying commercial spaceship has yet to fly, four serious proposals to develop spaceports for the tourist trade in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas are under review by the FAA, The Associated Press reported on Sunday. New Mexico already has a deal with Virgin Galactic to build a spaceport, expected to open in 2009. Texas has submitted two proposals -- Blue Origin, a space-tourism company, plans to develop a 165,000-acre site near El Paso and begin flight tests around 2012. A second Texas port would be on the Gulf Coast. The Oklahoma proposal, also pending FAA approval, would be sited at a former Air Force base that already has a 13,500-foot runway. New Mexico is expected to choose an architectural design from six entries on June 2 for its $225 million spaceport on 27 square miles of desert. Spaceport sites in Wisconsin, Alabama and Washington also have been proposed. Virgin Galactic and Rocketplane have said they will start test flights next year.