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Colorado spaceport closer to reality

April 12, 2016 Updated: April 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm
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photo - Front Range Airport, southeast of Denver International Airport, expects preliminary approval as soon as this summer for horizontal launches from Spaceport Colorado. (The Denver Post)
Front Range Airport, southeast of Denver International Airport, expects preliminary approval as soon as this summer for horizontal launches from Spaceport Colorado. (The Denver Post) 

Space tourists are a step closer to rocketing to orbit from a spaceport east of Denver, a leader of the effort said Tuesday at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

Front Range Airport, southeast of Denver International Airport, expects preliminary approval as soon as this summer for horizontal launches from Spaceport Colorado. Those spacecraft takeoff like airplanes and can hit altitudes of 62 miles or more.

That’s a flight profile similar to that envisioned for Virgin Galactic’s space plane that’s planned to haul tourists on a zero-G ride.

The spaceport has been in the works for years, but in January officials there began the process to get permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to allow the launches.

David Ruppel, the spaceport’s director said he sees few problems with the space flights, noting that because the craft ascend like airplanes, they don’t interfere with traffic patterns for other Colorado airports.

“Our intent is to provide space access for Colorado,” he said.

Ruppel said space flights could also launch satellites for Colorado’s large aerospace industry.

Colorado is the nation’s No. 2 aerospace state behind California and is home to firms including satellite-builder Ball Aerospace, rocket builder United Launch Alliance and innovation leader Sierra Nevada Corp.

While Ruppel hopes to get approval soon, it could be much longer before he gets a viable rocket.

Virgin Galactic’s program is recovering from a 2014 incident where its experimental spaceplane broke up in flight.

Ruppel said he’s also wooing rocket-builder XCOR, which is designing the Lynx spaceplane, which would feature a horizontal launch.

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