Spaceport America launched a new business plan Wednesday to find ways to generate revenue as it tries to get out from under the shadow of struggling client Virgin Galactic.
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s board of directors officially approved the five-year plan proposed by Spaceport America CEO Christine Anderson. According to documents released by Spaceport, the futuristic facility intends to generate profit by luring resources in fields within and outside of aerospace. At the same time, the company intends to ramp up suborbital spaceflight activity in 2017 and make New Mexico the place for “more annual non-test spaceflights than any other state by 2020.”
Spaceport America has only two high-profile tenants — Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. The facility’s success has been tied mostly to Virgin Galactic. But Virgin’s space flight plans suffered a setback last fall when a rocket-powered spacecraft broke apart during a test flight in the California desert, killing one pilot.
Officials say they will leverage the facility’s surrounding southern New Mexico landscape into a reason for new customers to set up shop there. Under this five-year time frame, Spaceport America intends to add at least two tenants focused on commercial spaceflight and two focused on drone testing.
The spaceport proposes obtaining 30 percent of its revenue from non-aerospace sectors by 2020. A focus on tourism and merchandising will be among the strategies to accomplish this, the company said. In the plan, Spaceport America stated a goal of having 61,000 annual visitors by 2017 and more than 100,000 by 2020. The spaceport is also starting an online shop through Amazon and looking for partners who want to license the spaceport’s brand.
Virgin’s flight delays and the lack of profit-generating have irked state lawmakers, who say they are tired of taxpayers footing the bill. State Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, proposed a bill earlier this year to sell off the hangar and the 18,000 acres that surround it. The legislation failed.
The project has cost more than $200 million so far. The state’s general fund kicked in $450,000 for $2.6 million in expenses for Spaceport America in fiscal 2015. Spaceport used revenue from business propositions, including the $1 million from Virgin Galactic’s lease, to pay for 60 percent of it. Construction bonds and funds from previous years covered the rest. Taxes imposed in Dona Ana and Sierra counties have also contributed to the spaceport’s construction.