The Mile High City is one giant leap closer to reaching outer space after receiving a Federal Aviation Administration grant to allow the Front Range Airport to continue working toward spaceflight operations.
In all, the airport in Watkins received $200,000 to continue the groundwork made on an environmental impact and feasibility and marketing study to assess the possibility of operating a horizontal-launch spaceport on its 3,900-acre site.
Dennis Heap, the airport’s executive director, said the Front Range Airport Authority applied for the grant in May and was becoming anxious after the FAA did not respond by July 17.
“It’s a domino that we’ve been waiting on to fall for a couple of months,” Heap said. “It’s very good news for us, because it gets the whole process started.”
He said the nod from the FAA is particularly important because it demonstrates that Spaceport Colorado’s future is promising.
What’s more, he said, the airport’s share of the grant money was a substantial portion of the $500,000 total allocated by the FAA for grant funding.
Only two other aerospace entities — the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and Mojave Air and Space Port — received an FAA grant for similar ventures.
“They’re not going to give us that grant unless they really think Spaceport Colorado has a good chance at becoming a viable spaceport,” Heap said. “When you look at it both ways, I think it was a stamp of approval for Front Range just because we got a grant and because it was a substantial amount compared to the others that were given out.”
Barry Gore, a Front Range Airport Authority board member, agreed.
“It’s a vote of confidence by the FAA that what we’re working on is a good project and that they’re interested in seeing where we can take it,”
The Front Range Airport Authority has been working to obtain a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spaceport license authorizing horizontal takeoffs since April 19. That’s when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill limiting a spaceflight entity’s liability for spaceflight participants and paved the way for Spaceport Colorado’s development.
The airport has allocated $850,000 for a spaceport license, which includes the completion of an environmental assessment, and a feasibility and marketing study. Front Range Airport agreed to pay $80,000 of the assessment’s estimated $400,000 price tag, according to approved grant documents.
Heap said the studies will take about six months to complete.
The remaining months will be spent analyzing the construction and layout of the proposed spaceport on the airport property.
Gore said he recently helped to create the Spaceport Colorado and Aeronautical Authority, a 501(c)(6) organization designed to help more private investors become involved in Spaceport Colorado’s future.