"What is a spaceport anyhow?"

As Space.com senior writer Leonard David reports, a spaceport is "a lot more than plopping down a launch pad."

In his article
Spaceports: Building up the Space Travel Industry, he looks at a hangar full of issues in connection with the "global groundswell of support to build spaceports."

As David notes, since 1996 the FAA/AST has licensed five spaceports in the US: California Spaceport at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Spaceport Florida at Cape Canaveral, the Virginia Space Flight Center at Wallops Island, Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and most recently, the Mojave Spaceport in California.

And he adds, approximately "three dozen operational spaceports are spread out around the planet—most of them government owned and operated."

FAA/AST chief Patricia Grace Smith told David, "One might look at a spaceport as an innovative, new century version of what you remember airports first looked like. They will be a gathering place for people to learn and witness, for the first time, the capabilities and benefits of space."

As to her thinking on New Mexico’s spaceport: "you’ll be able to go and take suborbital rides and experience zero-gravity, but also become educated and aware of all the various aspects of space."

What, and who, will fly out of spaceports? We can't wait to find out. Meanwhile, what Burt Rutan calls "the battle of the spaceports," and Derek Webber, director of Spaceport Associates terms an "emerging ... polarization of spaceport providers," is on.

(Here's FAA/AST's
launch site map; and this is a spaceport map from the Rocket Dungeon, via AP.)

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(Spaceport illustration credit:
Amanda Penrose)

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