MOJAVE MAY HOST SPACEPORT FAA CLOSE TO APPROVING NEW DESIGNATION FOR AIRPORT.
MOJAVE - Mojave Airport is close to being recognized by the federal government as a spaceport.
With both Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and rocket maker XCOR trying to develop spacecraft, Mojave Airport is seeking a Federal Aviation Administration license that will let them fly into space from Mojave's runways.
``I believe we are poised and ready for either one of the tenants who arrive at the starting point first,'' said Stuart Witt, the airport's manager.
The license, good for five years, will allow any company with an FAA space launch license and an agreement with Edwards Air Force Base to use the airport for its space flights. FAA officials indicated that Mojave would be getting its license toward the end of January, Witt said.
Commercially licensed spaceports already exist at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast, in Florida adjoining Kennedy Space Center, in Virginia and in Alaska. Mojave is one of 13 other sites that are working on gaining licenses, according to the FAA.
The license would cover two launch concepts: one for a rocket-powered aircraft - XCOR's design - and the other for a spacecraft launched in the air from a mother ship, like Rutan's SpaceShipOne, which made its first supersonic flight this month.
Both companies are working on spacecraft intended to fly more than 62 miles above Earth - 12 miles above the point where space is considered to begin.
Scaled Composites is one of two dozen contenders for the X Prize - a $20 million bounty offered by a St. Louis-based foundation to the first privately developed spacecraft that carries three people to 62.5 miles up, then does so again within two weeks.
Another Mojave-based firm, Interorbital Systems, is also an entry for the X Prize competition, but it has said it hopes to launch a rocket called Solaris X from a ship in the Pacific Ocean or from the island nation of Tonga.
Scaled Composites' 25-foot-long SpaceShipOne is carried aloft by a twin-engine jet called the White Knight, then let go to ignite its rocket engine.
To reach space, SpaceShipOne is to fly nearly straight up at a speed of about 2,400 mph, more than three times the speed of sound.
During re-entry, the spaceship's twin booms will pivot up to act as a speed brake. The twin booms then pivot back down during the final glide flight to a landing.
The project is being backed financially by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. Allen has not disclosed the amount he is investing in the project, but a spokesman for the billionaire described it as a significant, multimillion-dollar investment.
``SpaceShipOne is a tangible example of continuing humankind's efforts to travel into space and effectively demonstrating that private, nongovernment resources can make a big difference in this field of discovery and invention,'' Allen said in a statement disclosing his involvement in the project.
XCOR is working on a rocket-powered aircraft called Xerus. The spacecraft would take off and land like a regular aircraft but would use a liquid fuel rocket engine to propel it to speeds of more than Mach 4, roughly 3,000 mph.
XCOR envisions the vehicle being used for taking small payloads into space and for taking space tourists aloft.
The project is in the preliminary design stage. The project is not funded at this time.
As a steppingstone, XCOR has been testing an aircraft called the EZ- Rocket, a modified Long-EZ home-built aircraft, to demonstrate the company can design and routinely operate a rocket-powered vehicle.
Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 25, 2003|
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