A spaceport’s failure to launch

The number of proposed commercial spaceports in the US has now dropped by one. Last night county commissioners in Brazoria County, Texas, south of Houston, voted 4-1 to dissolve the Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport Development Corp., a county-chartered organization that had planned to develop a spaceport along the Gulf Coast. The corporation had been commissioned in 2000 but had made only modest progress, such as the development of a small launch pad for high-powered amateur rockets on land leased from the Dow Corporation. To be fair, though, for much of the time since 2000 the industry had been in the doldrums after the collapse of the commercial launch market and the failure of a number of RLV ventures. Still, this effort had been unable to attract much attention from the new generation of commercial space ventures, which have instead flocked to Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California.

Besides the lack of luck attracting business, the spaceport also had considerable opposition from local residents who lived near the site, as well as others who thought its location next to a wildlife preserve was inappropriate (nevermind that the Kennedy Space Center coexists with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.) Commissioners who voted to terminate the spaceport efforts were in the end frustrated with the lack of progress, according to the Houston Chronicle. “They just sat there and sat there and studied it,” said Joe King.

3 comments to A spaceport’s failure to launch

  • [...] Building a spaceport isn’t easy, as Brazoria County in Texas has figured out. I saw this story at the Personal Spaceflight blog and decided to comment on it. [...]

  • John K Ward

    I also am distressed at the apathy about spaceports in Texas. I had been named volunteer Business Development Director for the Brazoria County spaceport. I was fired. I since have realized it was because I was actually developing potential business. The leadership did not really have its heart into the spaceport. We met opposition from NIMBYs in the vicinity and the effort crumbled. It was not the greenies that killed the project. The public meeting had some greenies, but it was mostly residents of a retirement and fishing community nearby that raised the most argument. The county commissioners disbanded the effort shortly afterward. The spaceport was SO right for Brazoria County that I still entertain dreams for its revitalization, this time with leadership with more vision. The proximity to Houston, the position toward the equator, the overwater launch path, the proximity to industrial support in the county, a supportive college in the county and a host of other positives made this such a GO. There is an extreme unmet need for private space launch capability! American corporations are going to the French and the Russians, and likely soon to other countries to provide what we cannot here domestically. If anybody is in a position to help revitalize the effort, please contact John K Ward at jandjward@sbcglobal.net. I am presently in England, but will return to Brazoria County in December 2009. I would like to be a part of making this needed spaceport a reality.

  • [...] Who’s the mystery Texas spaceport customer? A decade ago the Texas spaceport scene was relatively active. No fewer than three spaceports had been proposed by various local entities to attract RLVs and other commercial launch vehicles. One was the Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport, located in Brazoria County, south of Houston; the second was the West Texas Spaceport, near Fort Stockton; and the third was the Willacy County Spaceport, located on the Gulf coast north of Brownsville. (A summary of the status of those spaceports at the time can be found in the 2002 edition of the FAA’s “Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts” report.) However, as the RLV boom went bust, these spaceport plans either went dormant or, in the case of the Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport, were cancelled. [...]

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