Spaceports of the world unite: ‘Sweden’ and ‘America’ plan for point-to-point

by | Jan 29, 2009 | Seradata News | 0 comments

Spaceport Sweden has announced that it and Spaceport America are now sister spaceports “[that] will increase global cooperation in the commercial space industry, promote cultural understanding and stimulate local economic development, tourism and education.”

On his visit this week to Spaceport Sweden New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director Steve Landeene spoke to Hyperbola about what this all meansOne thing both spaceports do have in common is they have both launched rockets. Spaceport Sweden is located on the Swedish government’s Swedish Space Corporation’s (SSC) ESRANGE test range where sounding rockets have been launching for decades, while Spaceport America had its first rocket launch (to 40,000ft by UP Aerospace’s rocket) in September 2006

Landeene described the cooperation concept as like “sister cities,” we’d say twinned here in the UK. It means that Spaceport Sweden’s test range officials will provide best practice to Landeene’s team on issues such as sounding rocket launches and outreach work with schools and universities

The SSC has been working with universities for many years and Landeene told Hyperbola that his organisation had started working with high schools; with the potential in the future for faculty and student exchanges between New Mexico and the municipality of Kiruna city, which is near to where the spaceport is located

Landeene also expressed the hope that by sharing best practice and adopting similar systems, ways of working, if or when trans-continental suborbital point-to-point travel came about the two spaceports could be destinations for each other

He expected tourists would like the “interesting opposites” of the arctic experience Sweden had to offer and the “wild west” landscape that New Mexico has

With the US Federal Aviation Administration’s office of commercial spaceflight issuing its launch licence for Spaceport America last year and the signing of the lease/anchor tenant agreement between the spaceport and Virgin Galactic, the remaining $64 million of New Mexico’s $140 million of state funds for construction of Spaceport America were released*

Landeene expects to be ready for Virgin Galactic in late 2010 but to have in the “latter half of this year launches from Armadillo Aerospace [with its work with Rocket Racing League (RRL)] and others” and that he expects to “see a higher frequency of enquiries from others” as the likes of RRL/Armadillo start setting up facilities

But while Spaceport America is making the most of being officially operational, Spaceport Sweden is still awaiting a decision by its government on the legal framework for it to enable Virgin Galactic or anyone to operate from the port

Talking to Spaceport Sweden’s vice chairman Bengt Jaegtnes, he told Hyperbola that “no final solution” to the issue of the legal framework had been found. He said that the Swedish government had not rejected the SSC’s recommendation of defining SpaceShipTwo as a sounding rocket under Swedish law

He said that he was not aware of the European Aviation Safety Agency’s own suborbital rules study, which, according to the report’s author (who previously worked with the ESA astronaut centre), concluded that existing EASA rules already apply to Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

In the meantime Spaceport Sweden and local Kiruna city authorities have been making the most of another January to push the arctic tourism message. Earlier this month it announced Virgin Galactic’s offer to Swedish travel agents, in January 2008 there was an announcement to grab some press attention and this all began in January 2007 when the spaceport plan and Virgin Galactic’s interest was first announced by the local Swedish authorities. So Hyperbola is guessing there will be a 2009 January annuoncement too

*Landeene also told Hyperbola that he expected Otera county to vote again on the issue of a local gross receipt (aka sales) tax increase to fund the spaceport. The counties of Sierra and Donna Ana had voted yes providing $51.4 million for the construction but the project needs another $6.6 million. New Mexico had hoped to get about $25 million in federal funds but that has never materialised

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