Adams County

Spaceport plan in final stages

County working on licensing Front Range designated for space transport

A view of Front Range Airport from the tower. The airport has nearly 4,000 acres of land, mostly vacant, which makes it ideal for growth if it receives the spaceport designation by the Federal Aviation Administration. Courtesy photo by Adams County
A plane drives between the hangers at Front Range Airport. Adams County is in the final stages of the application that, if approved, would give the airport a spaceport designation. Courtesy photo by Adams County
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Adams County should hear by the end of 2014 if Front Range Airport will have a spaceport designation.

The county is in the final stages of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) application for a license that would allow the airport to launch space-bound payloads, which could include passengers.

“We’re really excited about the potential this has for Adams County, the region and Colorado,” said Kristin Sullivan, Adams County economic development manager. “We believe (the designation) would be an incredible catalyst for the aerospace industry for all of Colorado.”

Some of that potential would be the economic boost of spacecraft development and manufacturing, space tourism and point-to-point traveling.

Sullivan said that the average salary for jobs in the aerospace industry is $120,000 annually.

“These are the types of jobs we’re looking to attract,” she said.

Point-to-point traveling could mean a traveler could get to Europe in three hours as opposed to the 12 hours it takes now, Sullivan said.

“It seems far-fetched but this is what the new space industry looks like,” she said.

FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George Nield toured Front Range May 19. Front Range is one of six locations nationwide applying for the FAA license. There are already eight licensed facilities.

“Commercial space transportation has grown at an incredible pace,” Nield said in a statement. “Ten years ago it was the space shuttle and it was the government operating.  Now we have two private companies operating, with many more in the development process.”

The county began in February 2013 the application process, which has included an environmental assessment, a safety evaluation and a business plan. A required public hearing and public comment period are among the last steps of the application and should happen during the summer. Sullivan said the application should be submitted in September and the FAA will have 180 days to evaluate it and issue a ruling.

In a March 12 letter to Nield, U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, Ed Perlmutter, Cory Gardner, Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Doug Lamborn expressed their support for the airport’s designation as spaceport.

“Located on 4,000 acres of land and surrounded by 6,000 acres of privately owned industrial property, Front Range Airport is remote yet only six miles from Denver International Airport,” the letter states. “These natural advantages, combined with the resources available from Colorado’s aerospace community, have Front Range Airport well-situated as a key cog in the effort to further develop commercial space transportation in Colorado.”