TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. — New Mexico lawmakers have questioned if it’s necessary to keep funding the commercial spaceport in the southern part of the state.

Members of the Legislative Finance Committee held a hearing about the future of Spaceport America and questioned CEO Dan Hicks about its business plan, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2xQRBYn ) on Thursday.

Hicks told the committee that the spaceport has the ability to be a commercial hub. He noted that New Mexico has advantages over competing spaceport projects, but it still requires government funding to operate. The private spaceports in other states, he said, are also not self-sustaining.

Republican state Sen. Sander Rue said that lawmakers are uneasy about how much funding the spaceport requires.

“We’re being told if we just invest some more money that this thing will be fully operational and more self-sustaining. But for a lot of us legislators, we’re concerned about how much money and over what period of time,” Rue said.

Democratic state Rep. Patricia Lundstrom said she wants to see the spaceport expand its commercial contracts and become more than a landlord.

Virgin Galactic is currently the anchor tenant of the spaceport near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The private space companies Space X, Up Aerospace and EXOS Aerospace have all used the facility. Next year, Virgin Galactic is set pay a $3 million lease payment, which is an increase from the prior $1 million payment.

Virgin Galactic plans to grow its staff from 20 to 100 employees once commercial launches to the edge of space begin. The company has sold more than 600 tickets for future trips.

State lawmakers have appropriated $379,900 in general funds and $5.4 million in other revenues for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority during this year’s legislative session.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com