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Sun, Apr 22, 2012

Ellington Airport Eyes Spaceport Status

Consultants Hired To Determine Feasibility Of The Move

Ellington Airport near Houston, Texas (KEFD) could be the next commercial spaceport ... if funding and the development of the nascent space tourism industry allow.

Ellington Airport System Director Mario Diaz engaged a consultant to determine the feasibility of such an operation, and the resultant study showed the plan to have merit. The next obstacle is funding; an estimated $48 to $122 million would be required to develop the airport into one of the country's first spaceports. James Muncy, a consultant to the commercial space industry said "There's a lot of interest in attracting new economic development wherever you are and this is a new, happening, coo, high-profile kind of activity."

Ellington would be next behind a spaceport facility already operating in California's Mojave Desert, and a second facility under construction in New Mexico, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. The FAA has issued licenses for spaceport facilities in Virginia, Alaska, Florida and Oklahoma and others have been proposed in seven other states.

The new spaceports would not resemble the vertical-launch facility at Kennedy Space Center; instead the aircraft would launch from a conventional runway with a booster for a short trip into space and return to make a conventional landing. The potential market is not strictly for wealthy adrenaline junkies, but includes research organizations, education, technology testing interests and possibly even point-to-point transportation. Even NASA could be a potential customer as outsourcing launch activity for small payloads could be done much more cost-effectively at a commercial facility.

FMI: www.fly2houston.com/ellington

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