State space digest

Some updates about the status of various state space initiatives:

Florida: Governor Jeb Bush’s proposal to spend $55 million in the next budget on space initiatives, including efforts to lure CEV work to the state and planning for a new commercial spaceport, have met with a mixed reaction from local newspaper editorial boards. The Orlando Sentinel says that the plan “deserves support”, citing concerns about the loss of thousands of jobs once the shuttle is retired. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel also declares its support, calling the initiative “a giant step to bolster its position in space exploration”. (Quibble: while the editorial says that New Mexico is spending $225 million on its “space program”, the state itself only plans to contribute about $135 million, with the rest coming from local and federal sources.) However, the Naples Daily News expresses its skepticism, noting that a $300-million effort by the state to lure the Scripps Research Institute has foundered, in part because of concerns from neighbors of the planned biomedical center. “[I]f a nice, quiet place such as Scripps has NIMBY trouble, what will an earth-rattling spaceport encounter?”

New Mexico: Governor Bill Richardson reiterated his support for his state’s planned spaceport on Thursday. The Reuters article notes that there is some opposition from state legislators, who either believe that underused or decommissioned Air Force bases might be better choices than the greenfield site in southern New Mexico, or that the money should not be spent on the project at all. Richardson said that he believes that more legislators will come around because of the economic benefits the spaceport will create, including luring space companies to the state. [Disclosure: my employer performed a study of the potential economic impact of the spaceport for the State of New Mexico Economic Development Department; that study estimated the maximum possible impact of the spaceport.]

Wisconsin: The proposal for Spaceport Sheboygan attracted the attention of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. If you get past the obligatory gee-whiz novelty of a spaceport in Wisconsin, you’ll read that the proposal has the backing of “plenty” of area politicians as well as former astronaut James Lovell. The article adds that the “Federal Aviation Administration has already granted Sheboygan authorization for suborbital flights”, but this is presumably for the low-level sounding rockets launched from Sheboygan by student groups; the site is still years away from an FAA/AST spaceport license.

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