Spaceport clears legislative hurdle

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Construction activity is going full throttle at the Sierra County location

By Tim Korte

ALBUQUERQUE — Amid a remote stretch of desert landscape, New Mexico’s springboard to space is evolving into final form.

Construction activity is going at full throttle at the Sierra County location of New Mexico’s spaceport, which is billed as the world’s first site built strictly to launch commercial space vehicles. Officials hope to begin testing spacecraft prototypes next year.

First, they’ll need an operating base.

On that front, all systems are go.

“It is just a flurry of activity,” spaceport director Steve Landeene said. “They’re working on the runway. They’re working on a 10-acre apron. They’re working on the terminal-hangar facility. You see 30 to 50 pieces of heavy machinery all moving in unison.”

As construction pressed ahead in recent months, the state’s $200 million investment — dubbed Spaceport America — got a huge boost during this year’s 30-day legislative session when lawmakers unanimously authorized an informed consent measure.

The bill, signed Feb. 27 by Gov. Bill Richardson, is similar to laws approved earlier in Florida and Virginia. It protects New Mexico’s spaceport and its operators from legal liability if there are injuries or deaths during a spaceflight catastrophe.

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