TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) – The question of what’s happening at New Mexico’s multi-million dollar Spaceport drew attention from state lawmakers Friday. Legislators met at the actual Spaceport America near Truth of Consequences for an annual update on the facility, operations, budget, economic impacts to the state.

They also discussed what’s arguably been the biggest question since the facility was completed in 2011: when will Virgin Galactic resume its commercial flights? 

The state of New Mexico operates the Spaceport America facility with Virgin Galactic as its prime tenant. The state says the Spaceport costs taxpayers about $4-million a year to operate.

Representative Mo Maestas says building the spaceport itself was a lot of money but he believes it will pay off in the end. He said, “The building of the Spaceport took a lot of money, but so do airports. It’s essentially a public airport for spaceships. So the building of the Spaceport was a couple hundred-million dollars, which was a lot of money, but it’s starting to pay off with these space companies coming in.”

The current NMSA (New Mexico Spaceport Authority) budget is about $10.8M per year with customer revenue providing around $6.9M. There are a number of capital outlay projects that are in progress right now – including vertical launch area improvements, infrastructure upgrades, a viewing lot, and more. 

When it comes to economic impact – it’s estimated that the Spaceport has created more than 500 new jobs with an estimated payroll of more than $34M.

Representative Maestas – who’s on the Economic Policy Committee – believes the southern part of the state will see more money as spaceport customers spend on hotels, food, and other local items. “The real economic ripple effect will occur around T or C, around Las Cruces. You know, tourists come when it becomes a tourist attraction and you know, the building hotels and things of that nature so, so it’s still a ways to go but it’s really helping the local economy down here and it can only grow,” Representative Maestas shared. 

The executive director of Spaceport America says the agency will continue working closely with Virgin Galactic. Right now, engine testing is being done at Spaceport America and they’re getting ready to do a vertical launch in November. According to the presentation, operations for space flights by Virgin Galactic will start again in 2023.