By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The next chapter of space travel may soon be written in Alabama.
Today it was announced that measures are being prepared to create a Alabama Spaceport Authority.
The vision of Alabama as a major spaceport is brainchild of Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville).
At a press conference today at the Statehouse in Montgomery, Dial was joined by Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw) and Rep. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) who all support the creation of an Alabama spaceport that could make Alabama a leader in space travel.
Simply stated, a spaceport is a site for launching and receiving spacecraft, currently there are only a handful of spaceports around the nation.
Alabama has been on the forefront of rocket and space technology for decades and with this plan Dial hopes to put the state back on the leading edge.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Alabama,” said Dial. “Years ago someone decided the the international airport should be in Atlanta and look what it has done for them. Imagine, what is will mean to our state to become an international spaceport. It will create jobs, put us on the forefront of technology and the make Alabama a vital part of the future.”
Joining the state legislators at the news conference was Michael McElligott from the Federal Aviation Administration.
McElligott is the Manager of the Space Transportation Development Division in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and has over thirty years of experience in military space operations and commercial space programs.
“In 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik, we followed up, and it was all government. Only a nation had the technical capability, the financial capability and the determination to go and do something like that,” said McElligott. “That has changed.”
McElligott says we have entered an era of private commercial industry taking the lead in space.
“The commercial industry has matured, their capabilities have matured, “ said McElligott. “It is transitioning now from a pure government exercise to one where commercial companies are fully capable of executing whatever they want to do on their own.”
The spaceports are a part of the major transition that must take place for private industry to take the lead in space.
McElligott who said as an official at the FAA would not prefer one location for a spaceport over another but he did comment on Alabama’s unique advantages.
“I have lived in Alabama, you already have the Marshall Space Flight Center here, Army Missile Defense Command, the MDA (the Missile Defense Agency) has a huge operation here. You have, depending upon who is in the room, the University of Alabama, Auburn, Troy, Tuskegee and you can rank those however based on where you graduate, the fact is the intellectual capital is here” said McElligott.
He went further to say he could not point to a negative in Alabama’s ability to be a center for a spaceport.
Dial is quick to point out that because Alabama already builds rockets and spacecraft and that this would give an Alabama Spaceport a significant advantage in providing local design, build, launch solution for commercial partners.
“The important thing for the leadership and the Legislature of Alabama to keep in mind is that this is an Alabama port, not a local port or a county port it is an Alabama port,” said Rep. McClendon, “I hope that the Legislators and the people of Alabama will understand that this a project that will benefit all Alabamians for generations to come. Not just one place in Alabama but our entire state effecting the lives of all our people for generations.”
McClendon says that The Alabama Spaceport will provide long-term economic development opportunities for Alabamians from all walks of life.
From construction to rocket design and everything in between. Lets make the commitment to the next generation. By developing the Alabama Spaceport Authority, we can start the process of assessments necessary to obtain a commercial spaceport license.