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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Apr > Apr 26

States Compete for Spaceports

From: Steven L. Wilson Sr <Ndunlks@aol.com>
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 15:14:19 EDT
Fwd Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 19:23:46 -0400
Subject: States Compete for Spaceports

 States Compete for Spaceports

 .c The Associated Press

  By PAULINE ARRILLAGA

 FREEPORT, Texas (AP) -- When Fred Welch surveys 1,000 acres of
prairie near the Texas coast, he thinks not of the land before
him but of the stars above.

 Welch has a vision for this stretch of soil about an hour south
of Houston. He sees a spaceport, with rocketships coming and
going as easily as 747s at an airport.

 It's a vision shared by Andy Poole in Montana and William
Dettmer in New Mexico, who both have several thousand of acres
available.

 They all are competitors in a new space race, where the prize
is a slice of a multibillion-dollar industry -- launching cargo
into orbit -- that could provide thousands of jobs and create a
new hub in the next era of space transportation.

 "This will just be the start of a space enterprise -- a new
Canaveral, so to speak," says Dettmer, chairman of the New
Mexico Space Commission.

 "A lot of states are trying to get into the wave of the future.
If you have it, we believe people will come -- like a field of
dreams."

 Spaceports would be home to reusable space vehicles intended to
launch telecommunications satellites and other freight at a
fraction of today's cost: $1,000 a pound compared with the
current $10,000 a pound.

 The so-called space planes would feature more efficient
engines, lighter fuel tanks and more durable thermal insulation
than today's launch vehicles. More importantly, they would have
no throwaway parts -- saving money and turnaround time.

 Today's space shuttles discard fuel tanks and rocket boosters.
Every time a shuttle launches, for example, the external fuel
tank and two solid-fuel rocket boosters are discarded. The
boosters are recovered and used again, but only after costly
refurbishment.

 With an estimated 1,700 satellites being prepared for launch
over the next decade, at least six private companies are
designing reusable space planes that they hope will become the
transportation system of choice in the 21st century.

 If the vehicles work as well as hoped, they could ferry
supplies to the International Space Station and eventually
replace the shuttle.

 "We have to at least start demonstrating technology leading to
a vehicle that could reduce the cost of getting into space,"
says Jim Cast, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration.

 Of the reusable vehicles under development, probably the
best-known is Lockheed Martin's VentureStar, a wedge-shaped
spaceship designed to lift more than 50,000 pounds of payload
into orbit.

 In 1996, NASA awarded the company a $900 million contract to
build a half-scale prototype known as the X-33, scheduled for
test flights next year. If all goes well, VentureStar could be
in operation by 2004.

 In all, 15 states are pitching 31 potential sites for
spaceports to serve as homes for VentureStar. Besides Texas,
Montana and New Mexico, they are Arizona, California, Florida,
Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South
Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

 Lockheed Martin plans to choose two sites late next year.

 "Whoever establishes itself as the commercial space
transportation hub, it's going to be the major place of
operations for decades to come," says Tom Moser, a former NASA
executive who heads the Texas Aerospace Commission.

 With three Texas sites under consideration, Welch -- who heads
an economic development group in the Freeport area -- is working
with Moser and officials from the other sites to obtain $1.3
million from the Legislature to help the state compete.

 They also are pushing legislation that would allow a county or
city to create an economic authority to foster spaceport
development.

 In Montana, legislators have exempted VentureStar from business
equipment taxes and provided funds toward spaceport
infrastructure, says Poole, deputy director of the state
Commerce Department.

 New Mexico has set aside millions of dollars to obtain land and
conduct environmental studies should it be chosen as a site.

 Several states, including Florida and California, already have
licensed, commercial spaceports. But because vehicles such as
VentureStar would have no expendable parts, they don't have to
take off from coastal launch pads.

 That, says Dettmer, gives inland states with little or no space
industry presence a chance to break into the market.

 "As we move from government space into commercial space, we're
looking at a whole new paradigm, and I think a lot of states are
interested in latching onto that," he says.

 AP-NY-04-26-99 0504EDT

  Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.  The information
contained in the AP news report may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without  prior
written authority of The Associated Press.

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