Headlines > News > Private space travel industry now eyes New Mexico

Private space travel industry now eyes New Mexico

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Wed Sep 29, 2004 4:26 pm
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by Dennis Domrzalski: All entrepreneurial space travel eyes are turning New Mexico, says New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary Rick Homans, now that a private team has apparently reached the half-way point of its effort to win the $10 million X Prize.

Homans was in the Mojave Desert Wednesday morning to watch SpaceShipOne successfully complete an effort to put the equivalent of three people into space in a privately-built, reusable launch vehicle. The team that built SpaceShipOne is headed by Dick Rutan and it will have to repeat Wednesday’s flight within two weeks in the same vehicle in order to win the $10 million prize.

New Mexico has been chosen to host the X Prize Cup, an annual, two-week long space show that is the sister event to the X Prize. The first show will take place in the summer of 2005 at White Sands Missile Range.

“After the X Prize is won, all attention turns to New Mexico and the X Prize Cup, which will become a launch pad, not only for an event that will draw hundreds of thousands of people to New Mexico, but a launch pad for a new industry, which is still in an entrepreneurial state,” Homans said after watching SpaceShipOne take off on its quest to climb 62.5 miles above the Earth.

The ship, hitched to the belly of a specially designed airplane, took off from the Mojave desert at 7:12 a.m. Pacific Time. After reaching an altitude of 41,000 feet, the launch vehicle detached from its mother ship and pilot Michael Melvill fired rockets that sent it on a near vertical climb into the Earth’s uppermost atmospheres.

Unofficial tracking reports said the craft reached the required altitude of 62.5 miles. Official confirmation of whether it reached that altitude will come later in the day.

Homans said that his department has been contacted by five to seven upstart space flight companies that are considering locating in New Mexico.

“Right now, they are small operations with five to 20 people and no significant revenues to speak of. They are funded by investors who are clearly visionary,” Homans said. “We hope to make some announcements in the coming months.

“This is a perfect branding message for New Mexico,” Homans said of the X Prize and the X Prize Cup. “It says that we are a state that welcomes and embraces innovation, risk taking and adventure.”

The SpaceShipOne team had announced before Wednesday’s flight that it would launch its second flight on Monday, Oct. 4.

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