Residents of Otero County in New Mexico have defeated a proposed tax increase to help build an inland spaceport that would serve as the launching ground for commercial spacecraft.
Reports from the field indicate that 52.3 percent voted against the tax on Tuesday.
While not impacting Spaceport America as far as moving forward, the Otero vote means there will be less money for operations. Officials have said the initial estimated cost to build the spaceport 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) north of Las Cruces, N.M., is about $198 million, with a cap set for $225 million.
Earlier, both Dona Ana County and Sierra County approved a tax increase, meaning that Spaceport America will proceed toward construction. The Otero tax increase would have raised some $2.3 million for the effort, with that county becoming part of a triad of support to build the facility.
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"We will look for support from other local governments or New Mexico counties not currently in the district that have expressed interest in joining," Steve Landeene, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said Wednesday in a news release.
British billionaire Sir Richard Branson has tapped Spaceport America to serve as the launching ground for his Virgin Galactic spaceliners, a fleet of privately built suborbital spaceships that will launch passengers on space tourism treks for about $200,000 per seat. The air-launched SpaceShipTwo vehicles and their WhiteKnightTwo mothership are under construction at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif.
The spaceport is expected to be home base for a separate venture to fly passengers aboard a new fleet of reusable, vertically launched rocket ships, at a cost of about $100,000 per ticket.
The new joint venture between Rocket Racing Inc. and Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas, was announced last month at the Lunar Lander Challenge in Las Cruces, where the Armadillo team won $350,000 in the NASA-sponsored moon lander contest. Piloted flights of the bubblelike spacecraft are slated to begin in 2010.
While the Otero County vote may have failed to support Spaceport America, the project is still moving closer to reality, Landeene said. The Federal Aviation Administration is currently reviewing Spaceport America's license application.
This report was supplemented by Space.com staff and msnbc.com.
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