David Knudsen a senior business development specialist with the California Office of Business and Economic Development visited Mojave Air and Space Port April 17, and was impressed by what he saw there.
He also attended the East Kern Airport District’s directors meeting.
Other highlights of the meeting included approval of consulting service agreements with prospective Colorado Front Range Spaceport consultants; approval of a $82,700 per year building and acreage lease; reminder of the May 22 Intermediate Space Challenge; a discussion of a Mojave Charter School and a progress report from Mojave Makers.
Knudsen was given a tour by CEO Stuart Witt, and this was the first time in the last 10 years that a California state official visited.
Knudsen saw the rail yard, Scaled Composites, the National Test Pilot School and Masten Space Systems. During a long discussion with Jeff Greason, president and co-founder of XCOR Aerospace, the pair discussed California’s business climate. Reportedly, Gleason frankly said, you can have regulation or business, not both at the same time.
Later, in an informal discussion with the press, Witt said “What good are regulations if there is no business.” He pointed to California’s rating as 50th out of the 50 states in having a business friendly climate. His opinion is that California is outstanding in product research and development, but that production will leave California.
He hopes that an informed consent law, which obviates the need of space flight firms to carry personal liability insurance, will be passed by the Legislature. All other states with spaceports do have such a law. This includes New Mexico, Florida and Virginia.
Witt pointed out to Knudsen that these state’s governors have personally approached Mojave firms with invitations to relocate. He has been told by former New Mexico Governor Richardson that California itself does the job of promoting relocation to New Mexico for him.
Front range spaceport consultants
The board has the option of trying to “build a moat around” its spaceport know-how, to use Witt’s phrase. Or it can opt to promote commercial spaceflight experiences worldwide.
It has previously worked with New Mexico and Oklahoma. The advantage to Mojave is salary recovery by charging for its staff manpower time. It voted to continue cooperation approving consultant agreements with two firms that are bidding to become spaceport consultants for the Colorado Front Range Space Port. The firms are HRD, and Scott Brown Inc. The later was active in design of Spaceport America, N.M.
The two firms are competing to become consultant to the Front Range Spaceport Authority. The winner would then request that Mojave provide professional consulting services in the following areas of expertise: spaceport operations, business development, spaceport licensing, environmental, facility analysis and design, public relations, and other areas mutually agreed upon.
Lease to Super Sonic Jets
Airport Bldg. 70, its ramp and acreage was leased to Super Sonic Jets, Inc. The annual rental is $82,725.60. Term is two years with six two-year options. The tenant will use the facility for the sole purpose of aircraft storage and other airport approved activities.
Intermediate Space Challenge
Board member Marie Walker started the Intermediate Space Challenge in 2005.
The activity is designed to engage the interest of 9 to 11 year old youngsters at their formative age in math, engineering and science through exposure to rockets. The event features two flights of each class’s rocket. The rockets are Estes Co. 16-inch models. Live arming and actual firing is done by Mojave Air/Space Port volunteer personnel. Two Edwards AFB outreach teams measure rocket height. The 4th through 6th grade classes are judged on rocket performance, rocket integration, a spirit banner, and an illustrated essay on rocketry.
The Aero Institute in Palmdale, Calif., with funding from NASa, has prepared a rocketry book and curriculum guide based on Walker’s work.
Walker told last year’s competitors, “This program will go across the nation. You boys and girls have made this happen.” There were about 1,000 participants last year, and this year’s event, being held May 22, will be larger. Mojave airport provides the space and volunteer “rocket chasers.” Increasingly, local schools have entered the competition. Tehachapi School District has started its own version.
The airport is highly interested in helping to develop a charter school in Mojave.
There have been discussions with two groups that are interested. Impetus for a charter school is to make the town more attractive to the highly trained tenant employees, present and prospective. Witt has been approached to start a children’s day care center at the airport to benefit single parent employees. The airport cannot do this. He was hopeful that perhaps day care center could be a feature of a new charter school.
Tom Lackey who attended the meeting pointed out that the Palmdale aerospace academy charter school fond that cooperation with the local school board was important in the success of its establishment. Lackey is a Palmdale City Councilman and former school board member. He is seeking office as assemblyman.
Coordinator Mike Clive gave the board an informal progress report on the Mojave Makers group. There are now about 20 members and Clive expects that number go grow to 30 soon.
Clive also reported that the group expects to be self sustaining in the near future.
More shop tools, a mill and lathe have been donated. The application for incorporation as a public benefit corporation has been sent to Sacramento, and an account is being opened at Mojave Desert Bank.
Clive effusively thanked the board for its support. The board, in turn, feels that the group is an attractive “value added” feature that is provided for its tenants.