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Video: New Mexico launch pad

updated 1/11/2006 4:18:28 PM ET 2006-01-11T21:18:28

State officials signed an agreement that gives a planned spaceport north of Las Cruces access to nearly 15,000 acres of state trust land to begin developing the site.

State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons and Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans negotiated a right-of-way permit with two ranching families who have held agricultural leases on the Southwest Regional Spaceport site at Upham, N.M., for more than half a century.

The permit is valid until January 2007.

"We truly are on the ground floor of a new industry that will continue our legacy of leadership in space exploration, and the state stands to gain thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of payroll and capital investment," Homans said Wednesday.

New Mexico officials have been working on the idea of a spaceport for 15 years. State officials propose building a $225 million spaceport for private commercial rocket launches.

Last month British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he will use the spaceport as the launching site for space tourism under the banner of his company, Virgin Galactic.

New Mexico's Land Office manages 13 millions acres of state trust land that primarily supports public education with revenue earning on oil and gas production, agricultural leasing and development activities.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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