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Colorado's future as the gateway to space exploration may hit some roadblocks

Hearing will update public on environmental study
Posted at 9:41 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 01:10:52-04

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. – Colorado’s future as a hub for commercial space exploration may hit some roadblocks as the countdown continues on a 180-day review of a potential site-operator license for Spaceport Colorado.

During a public hearing at Front Range Airport in Adams County on Thursday, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials updated the public on an environmental study at the site.

The more than 120-page report details the plane's proposed launch route, minimal sonic booms and noise levels. The meeting was the next step to collect comments from the community and stakeholders like Denver International Airport (DIA), airlines, and pilot associations.

Adams County expects to have a license determination from the FAA by Aug. 19.

But not everyone’s convinced Front Range Airport is the best fit for the hub.

DIA officials said they would like to see Spaceport Colorado succeed, but added they still need more information about the project.

"What happens at DEN at any given day has ramifications to our partners' schedules across the nation," said DIA Chief Commercial Officer Patrick Heck. "Until we have answers, we cannot support the spaceport designation despite our strong desire to collaborate with our regional partner."

Ann White, a neighborhood association representative asked about the proximity to DIA.

"...We have those airlines that are wanting to expand. What are they thinking about this?"

Several airline representatives spoke against the proposal for spaceport designation.

Adam's County and Front Range Airport's goal, on average, will be launch one flight a week from Spaceport Colorado.

Peggy Taylor, an interested Nederland resident, supports the project and is excited about the prospect of space travel from Colorado.

"Some people think it's the future, but it's not. It's now, so I think getting in on the ground floor here is pretty amazing. I'm impressed."

Front Range Airport applied for the license to operate Spaceport Colorado back in March 8.

At the time, the airport’s director, David Ruppel, told Denver7 that if everything goes according to plan, the airport plans to send one flight per week off into space out of the hub, which will be located about a mile and-a-half from the airport’s current grounds.

Here's how that will work: Spaceport Colorado will accommodate planes making horizontal takeoffs and landings. The planes will take off like traditional airplanes using jet fuel, but after clearing the spaceport, rocket boosters will launch the craft into suborbital flight. To land, the craft will have to drop out of suborbital flight to land like a traditional airplane.

Adams County sees the potential Spaceport Colorado will bring to many residents in terms of jobs.

"Spaceports, you've seen ten of them pop up around the country,” said Adams County director of communications Jim Siedlecki. “It's now time for Colorado to have one to make sure that we are keeping all these aerospace jobs in Colorado, and that the future of space travel may originate here.”

The FAA is accepting public comment until May 25.