Colorado Seeks Spaceport Status

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has sent a letter to the FAA seeking designation as a spaceport and the ability to create facilities for that purpose. Colorado ranks third for highest state revenue generated from the aerospace industry, according to the governor. It also hosts 140 aerospace companies, the Air Force Space Command headquarters and NORAD. The governor's target is Front Range Airport, about 20 miles east of Denver. If federally approved, Hickenlooper hopes to transform roughly 10,000 acres of land surrounding the airport into fertile ground for spaceport support services and the jobs that go with them. He appears to be hoping for a quick turnaround from the FAA.

According to the governor, the state could win spaceport designation by year-end 2012. The spaceport itself would serve as an important tool for economic development in what some believe will become a growing industry. Proponents believe near-term business interest would come from commercial payload carriers offering service to space and eventually could expand to include space tourism. If granted, Colorado would join ranks with early adopters like New Mexico, which already holds the spaceport designation. A facility being designed there reportedly has an estimated cost of roughly $212 million. Virgin Galactic is expected use it to fly space tourist flights. The tab for the facility's creation will be footed by state taxpayers.