Spaceport America developments

Will Spaceport America get a second paved access road? Right now the primary access is from the north, via the town of Truth or Consequences, on a road paved earlier this year to permit spaceport construction to begin. That results in a fairly roundabout trip for visitors coming from Las Cruces and points south: about 90 minutes from Las Cruces. Earlier this week the New Mexico Spaceport Authority said it seek $7.5 million from the state to pave a second road that runs from I-25 at Upham, NM north to the spaceport. If paved, the 26-mile (42-kilometer) route could cut travel time from Las Cruces to the spaceport in half. Funds for the paving were authorized by the state legislature in 2006 as part of the overall spaceport project, but not funded.

Later this week, though, state officials backtracked: Fred Mondrag√≥n, head of the state’s Economic Development Department and chairman of the spaceport authority, said they would not seek state funds for the road because of a projected budget shortfall that’s expected to sharply limit capital expenditures in the state. Instead, he said that they will look for federal money for the road, or try to find savings from other parts of the overall project to get the road paved.

Mondrag√≥n also said the spaceport authority will seek legislation next year that would provide a liability indemnification for space tourism operators in the state, similar to existing legislation in Virginia, Florida, and most recently, Texas. The bill would not protect operators from gross negligence but would provide some protection in the event of accidents, and thus reduce insurance premiums for operators like Virgin Galactic. A similar bill was proposed in 2009 but not approved by legislators, concerned that it provided too much protection to operators; the 2010 version will be scaled back, although the report wasn’t specific as to how.

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