ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Spaceport America in southern New Mexico had one of its busiest years with more than a dozen vertical launches, a pair of balloon flights pulled off by Boeing Co. and flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s mother ship.

All the activity this year demonstrated the spaceport’s potentially magnetic appeal for the commercial space industry, said officials that manage the futuristic facility.

As competition among spaceports is increasing nationally and internationally, the state may need to take more aggressive marketing actions in order to attract more business, the Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday.

Spaceport CEO Dan Hicks said the country has 10 other licensed spaceports with applications pending for nine more. The spaceports are competing in a market that spent some $339 billion in 2016.

“A tremendous amount of money is being invested,” Hicks said. “It’s the next big frontier.”

The space industry continues to change, so Spaceport America needs to stay ahead of that change, Hicks said.

“We have a great customer base and revenue stream now, but we have to grow that foundation,” Hicks said.

The New Mexico facility does have some advantages over others. Spaceport America offers unlimited access from the ground to space because the facility is away from population centers and is located in restricted government airspace. With air traffic congestion becoming a problem in location across the globe, the restricted airspace may become a critical need as the space industry grows.

Spaceport America is located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Truth or Consequences.

The state Spaceport Authority is looking to increase its state funding next year from about $375,000 to $1 million. Some state lawmakers have opposed the idea, pushing for the facility to become self-sustaining.

The spaceport expects to have more income next year without the state’s help as Virgin Galactic’s lease payments for its hangar will increase from $1.8 million to $3 million.

“We need to be out there recruiting companies to not get behind the competition,” Hicks said.


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