Economic Development: Primary Focus of C-Spaceports

Commercial spaceports are portraying themselves as the economic development centers and are in the stage of development, thus building infrastructure like road and other utilities

Fremont, CA: Commercial spaceports, even those without any launch activity, are portraying themselves as the economic development center. In a meeting of the Global Spaceport Alliance, a spaceport industry group on November 19 displayed the increased focus of the spaceports as part of broader aerospace and other industry development strategies. The members of the spaceport industry group include many anticipated and even licensed facilities that are yet to host a launch.

Houston Spaceport is the name given to the spaceport activities at Ellington Airport in Houston. Federal Aviation Administration issued a launch site operator's license to the Houston Airport System in 2015, though it is yet to host a launch or reentry, and is also unlikely to do so in the near future.

According to a spaceport official, that's an intentional decision. "We determined that there were too few players, in terms of operators, we decided we were not going to build our business case immediately around operations," said Arturo Machuca, General Manager of Ellington Airport and Houston Spaceport.

Presently there are two non-space companies at the spaceport, which includes one building UAVs and other that announced the plans in September to establish an aviation training center there.

Out of the total area, the spaceport is in the midst of the development of 165 acres in 'phase 1', building infrastructure like roads and utilities that could host additional companies. Arturo said they invite and attract other companies to come to Hoston Spaceport and help develop the cluster of aerospace and aviation companies.

This approach of sending the invitation to other companies turns the spaceport into a kind of business park and the authorities admit that it could not have been possible without the license issued by the FAA.

Other small and large spaceports, too, have used the model, e.g., Florida, where Blue Origin and OneWeb Satellites have built factories outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center. The Colorado Air and spaceport that received the FAA license in 2018 has also been running it on a far smaller scale and has also not hosted any launches yet.

Both Colorado and Houston hope to host the launch activity soon, primarily in the form of horizontal takeoff and landing vehicles. Meanwhile, Houston Spaceport will have its focus on economic development, including the additional businesses it supports.

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