Move over, New Mexico: Colorado seeks spaceport

Officials in Colorado are seeking U.S. Federal Aviation Administration designation for a spaceport 22 miles east of Denver.

The commercial space industry just got more interesting.

Officials in Colorado are seeking U.S. Federal Aviation Administration designation for a spaceport, according to a Denver Post report. There are eight such facilities in the country today.

The suggested site for "Spaceport Colorado" is the Front Range Airport, 22 miles east of Denver.

Ann Schrader reports:

Spaceports — of which eight are active in the United States — are viewed as important economic-development tools.

"These are the opportunities, like cellphones in the early 1990s, that seem farfetched but may not be all that far away. The potential here is huge," Hickenlooper said to about 300 aerospace industry members gathered at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

To date, Colorado has been considered too populous for spaceport operations, but the development of dual-propulsion spacecraft -- which allow the use of a conventional horizontal runway, as opposed to a NASA-style vertical launchpad -- have made officials reconsider.

It's all about economic growth. The report notes that Colorado recently topped Florida as the second-biggest space economy in the U.S., behind California, and it's home to several military installations, federal labs and research programs -- not to mention offices by major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Will Colorado succeed? We'll find out in a year when the FAA decides on the issue. But if all goes well and funding comes together -- a big "if" -- the first test flight could occur as soon as 2014.

Photo: Front Range Airport

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