New Mexico's Spaceport America. Credit: Spaceport America

New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Credit: Spaceport America

New Mexico’s Spaceport America has announced a “master development plan” that opens up more “build-to-suit” parcels within the North and East Campuses at the 18,000-acre facility in Southern New Mexico.

Roughly 250 acres surrounding Spaceport America’s Gateway to Space terminal — and the site’s 12,000-ft by 200-ft spaceway — will be divided into parcels of between four and 30 acres. Leasing costs would vary according to the size of the property and the tenants’ requirements.

Credit: Spaceport America

Credit: Spaceport America

Another 100 acres within the vertical launch campus, ranging from 1.5- to 22-acre parcels, are also now ready for build-to-suit tenancy.

In a press statement, Spaceport America CEO, Christine Anderson, explained: “We are opening up several hundred acres in both our horizontal and vertical launch areas for build-to-suit tenancy and have also expanded our infrastructure to support ad-hoc flight test campaigns.”

Courtesy: Spaceport America

Courtesy: Spaceport America

Free first flight

In addition to offering up new parcels of land within both the horizontal and vertical launch campuses, Spaceport America is welcoming qualified new prospective tenants with a First Flight is Free program.

This new take-to-the-air tactic is dubbed the “Reach for the Stars at Spaceport America” campaign targeted to commercial space and space-related technology companies.

Spaceport America is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The FAA-licensed launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.

Spaceport America is destined to be the commercial launch site for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital passenger flights. In addition, flight tests of Elon Musk’s SpaceX recoverable booster are to be staged at Spaceport America.


Recent launch

In a related development earlier this month, a suborbital launch was carried out from Spaceport America of an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft rocket.

The November 6 launch departed from Spaceport America’s Vertical Launch Complex-1 on the East Campus. The rocket flight represented Spaceport America’s 24th overall launch and the fourth from Spaceport America with NASA Flight Opportunities Program payloads.

UP Aerospace SpaceLoft rocket on November 6 launch departing from Spaceport America’s Vertical Launch Complex-1. Credit: Spaceport America

UP Aerospace SpaceLoft rocket on November 6 launch departing from Spaceport America’s Vertical Launch Complex-1.
Credit: Spaceport America

The SpaceLoft commercial research rocket reached a maximum altitude of approximately 75 miles (121 kilometers). The parachute recovery system brought the rocket and its payloads safely back to terra firma and were recovered intact downrange on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range as planned.

Re-entry capsule demonstrated

The recent flight showcased for the first time the capability to eject separate payloads that require independent re-entry into the atmosphere.

Three separate parachutes provided soft landing of payload components.

The debut of UP Aerospace’s new Automated Payload Deployment System (APDS) took place at 60 seconds into the rocket’s flight. At that point the system successfully released the nose fairing and ejected the 11-pound re-entry capsule named Maraia.

Maraia was designed and built by NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center. The capsule was designed to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere independent of the launch vehicle to test controllability at Mach numbers reaching 3.5.

Post-launch, UP Aerospace President Jerry Larson said: “We look forward to offering our new independent re-entry capabilities which we have demonstrated with this mission to other customers in the future.”

“Everything worked great,” Larson told Inside Outer Space.

NASA's Maraia return to Earth re-entry capsule mounted on launch cradles prior to loading it into the launch vehicle. Credit: UP Aerospace

NASA’s Maraia return to Earth re-entry capsule mounted on launch cradles prior to loading it into the launch vehicle.
Credit: UP Aerospace

Payload packed

The remainder of the vehicle contained three other experiments by NASA’s AMES — Research Center, Purdue University, and New Mexico State University.

The payload flown on the UP Aerospace SL-10 rocket included the following:

  • — Maraia Earth Return Capsule from NASA Johnson Space Center. This experiment tested a reentry capsule being developed to return small satellites and individual payloads from orbit on-demand.

— AVA from NASA Ames Research Center. This was a test of a developmental, low-cost avionics package, which will ultimately be used to monitor and control launcher systems designed for small satellites.

— Green Propellant experiment from Purdue University. This experiment studied surface tension behavior of a new “green” rocket propellant in low gravity. Results will be used to validate propellant management devices applicable to both geostationary and interplanetary spacecraft.

SOF-2 from New Mexico State University. This experiment tested an autonomous, robotic method to identify unknown or changed inertia properties (mass, center of mass, moments of inertia) of a spacecraft. This will be used to enhance control capability of future on-orbit servicing missions such as satellite refueling, rescue, repair, and orbit debris removal.

UP Aerospace is headquartered in Denver, Colorado and is currently under contract to perform two additional missions for NASA in 2016.

Ashes into space

Also onboard the SpaceLoft XL rocket, the Houston-based Celestis flew its 14th memorial spaceflight that carried the ashes of flight participants to the edge of space.

The “Tribute Flight” placed a symbolic portion of the cremated remains of its flight participants into space on a spaceflight trajectory similar to NASA’s early Mercury manned missions of the 1960s

In addition, the first Celestis pet was onboard, called the final journey of “Apollo” – an Australian Shepherd dog that lived with the Michael Potter family of Los Angeles, California.

Post-recovery, the Celestis capsules and modules are to be returned to family members and loved ones, providing them with a flown keepsake.

In addition to its Earth Rise Service, Celestis also offers missions into Earth orbit, to the Moon, and into deep space.

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