Colorado Spaceport Designation Under Formal Review

Image Credit: Front Range Airport

Image Credit: Front Range Airport

February 21, 2018 – The State of Colorado is one step closer today to having an official commercial spaceport designation. Front Range Airport Director David Ruppel shared a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) office of commercial space transportation stating that the application to conduct launch operations from Spaceport Colorado is officially under review.

“We have completed our initial review of your application and its subsequent updates, and found that it is complete enough for us to accept and start the 180-day review period. We anticipate making a license determination, in accordance with 14 CFR 413.15, within 180 days of its acceptance, which is by August 19, 2018,” read a portion of the letter.

This means that Colorado could have a commercial spaceport by the end of the summer. A spaceport designation would allow the existing Front Range Airport to add FAA-licensed suborbital flight capabilities to its current General Aviation operations.

Spaceport Colorado is envisioned as a horizontal launch facility where FAA-licensed Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles (sRLV) will take off and land from existing airport runways. Spaceport Colorado will not operate vertical launch rockets or “Experimental” vehicles.

Once established, the spaceport will provide access to space for scientific research, education and space tourism in the short-term and point-to-point, high speed, suborbital transportation to other international spaceports in the long-term.

The Spaceport review process has been extensive, and the Spaceport Colorado Team has been engaged in ongoing dialogue with the FAA for several years. The real challenge has been the potential spaceport’s proximity to Denver International Airport.

“It’s about six miles straight line distance,” said Ruppel. “Very close to the metropolitan area – close to the interstate and heavy rail – but also right under Class B air space.”

Integration of the spaceport and future space vehicles into the National Airspace System creates a situation without precedent.

“It’s a new idea to do it this close to an airport and we have to demonstrate that this is safe,” said Ruppel. “The FAA is charged with protecting regular air space, and this is different from being next to the coast where you can fly without other traffic.”

At the same time, industry leaders see the economic potential in jointly developing DIA-Front Range Airport as a spaceport hub. Obtaining the FAA Spaceport License could help define what a 21st-century commercial spaceport will look like.

“We hope that our experience will help smooth the path for other places in the future who have similar traffic issues,” said Ruppel.

Suborbital point-to-point flight will eventually complement America’s highly-developed air transportation system by being located on or near major commercial and transportation hubs like Denver. Commercial spaceports will support suborbital flights transporting passengers and high-priority cargo over long distances at six times the speed of current commercial airliners. Spaceport Colorado would be the first spaceport established in the middle of the country and could become an integral part of this global network of developing commercial spaceports.

In the meantime, having a Spaceport designation will sustain and accelerate Colorado’s existing aerospace industry by attracting high-value aerospace technology clusters that support advanced manufacturing, payload delivery, education and R&D industries.

The state already boasts the second highest number of aerospace workers in the nation, a strong research community, and top aerospace companies, making it a logical choice for a spaceport. Several companies in Colorado are developing products and services that could utilize the spaceport, including Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser suborbital spacecraft, being built in Louisville, Colorado.

Front Range Airport is located in Watkins, Colorado. It’s unique in the Denver metropolitan area as the only general aviation airport without major nearby residential areas. With 3,600 acres of economic and technological potential, a spaceport designation has the support of industry leaders, regional economic-development groups, and state and local government.

The application process has included an environmental assessment, a safety evaluation and a business plan. An extensive noise analysis was also conducted as part of the environmental assessment.

To read the full letter, visit: