Is space, the final frontier for Colorado’s Front Range?
As The Denver Post reports, it's at least on the horizon following the Federal Aviation Administration's decision last week to award a site operator license to Watkins Airport, which is just east of Denver International Airport in Adams County.
The airport was renamed to Colorado Air and Space Port on Monday, following the FAA's decision.
With the license, next-generation space planes will eventually be able to take off and land at the site just like regular jets, except the space planes will engage rockets at around 35,000 feet, said Communications Director Jim Siedlecki, which he said will allow the jets to carry passengers 350,000 feet above earth’s surface.
Siedlecki said there have been some concerns raised about noise by residents in the area, but he said noise should only amount to a clap of thunder after the space planes reach an altitude that will allow rockets to be engaged.
But as the Denver Post reported in June, the plans concern ranchers and farmers on Colorado's eastern plains because Spaceport’s proposed launch zone, which runs 100 miles from near Last Chance to western Kansas and 50 miles north to south, puts tiny towns along US 36 directly under its flight path. The path has raised concerns about what impact that might have on aerial crop dusting operations.
An official said the impact is uncertain because crop dusting pilots don’t usually communicate with air traffic control since those planes fly so close to the ground.
All of it is still a long way down the road, however, because the first launch isn’t expected to take place for at least a decade. The space planes must first be designed, built, tested and certified by aerospace companies like Airbus, Virgin Atlantic, Reaction Engines, Ltd. And Rocketplane Global.
Colorado Air and Space Port is the nation’s 11th such licensed facility of its kind.
Click here to watch a video about Colorado Spaceport.