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- Apr 10:
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- Jan 14:
- Adams County pumps millions into struggling Front
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- Nov 26:
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Spaceport Colorado will serve as Swiss Space Systems' North American headquarters, marking the first foreign-based company to commit to the regional enterprise and helping to validate the effort.
The Switzerland-based company, known as S3, signed a memorandum of understanding with representatives from the Colorado coalition after meeting with the team last month.
Spaceport Colorado is a statewide initiative to create an aerospace hub at Front Range Airport in Adams County that is designed to attract high-tech research, commercial space development and eventually the creation of a horizontal launch pad for space transport.
But the enterprise is currently undergoing feasibility and environmental studies and still must gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration when it submits its license application by the end of the year.
"It validates what we are trying to do. A private company has evaluated options around the country and has decided Spaceport Colorado is going to be their headquarters," said Barry Gore, president and CEO of Adams County Economic Development.
S3 is developing a flight system similar to what Virgin Galactic is developing with SpaceShipTwo in California and New Mexico. Instead of offering space tourism, however, the company will use its suborbital spaceplane — called SOAR — to deploy small satellites on a suborbital trajectory.
"Colorado is one of the key states in aerospace, and we were happy with the speed of negotiations and the collaboration already," said Grégoire Loretan, S3's head of communications.
According to Loretan, the company's first phase of operations in Colorado will focus on courting contacts within the small satellite sector and collaborating with the state's universities on microgravity research.
Ken Lawson, the interim director of aviation at Front Range Airport, said S3 plans to lease space at the airport.
"I think it establishes that Colorado is a player in the spaceport industry," Lawson said.
S3 hopes to achieve horizontal launch with its small satellites deployment system by 2018. However, Front Range Airport must improve its runway in length, strength and width if it wants to accommodate the company's proposed flight system.
S3's system requires an Airbus A300 to take off from the runway with an unmanned space plane on its back, which it would then release more than 10 kilometers above Earth. The Airbus would return to the airport while the space plane boosts itself to above 80 kilometers, at which time it would catapult a satellite, weighing no more than 250 kilograms, into orbit 700 kilometers above the planet.
The unmanned space plane would land back on the runway and be reused for another mission.
S3 says this system offers satellite deployment services at a quarter of the current market cost because it is reusable and relies on cheaper fuel than vertical launch systems. S3 estimates it would charge about $11 million for a 250 kilogram satellite.
Loretan expects customers from a diverse range of interests, including scientific research institutions, medical companies and weather monitoring organizations.