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Could Paso Robles be home to the nation's next spaceport?

paso robles airport.JPG
Posted at 3:32 PM, Sep 16, 2021

The City of Paso Robles is eyeing the space industry.

It's currently working on an application for its municipal airport to be designated as a spaceport. City officials say it could propel the local and regional economy and launch our nation further into space.

"We're the new pioneers of the new frontier which is outer space," said Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin.

On top of a thriving tourism and wine industry, the City of Paso Robles is setting its sights on space.

"The first reaction is sort of a question mark over their heads," Mayor Martin said.

The city has owned the military-grade airport since the 1970s. It has a runway of 6,000 feet and is popular for general aviation.

"People that own airplanes, people who have corporate airplanes that fly in and out," Martin said.

With no regularly scheduled airlines, it could also be the next spaceport location.

"When people think of spaceport they think of rocket ships launching off and great balls of fire and that's not what we're talking about here," Mayor Martin explained.

Instead of vertical launches like at Vandenberg Space Force Base, it could be home to horizontal launches.

"They could be 20 to 50 feet in length and they fly just like an airplane would or a jet would fly and they go up to low earth orbit and they release their cargo which are small satellites," said Paul Sloan, City of Paso Robles Economic Development Manager.

The spacecraft then lands back at the spaceport.

"So there's no big launch. There's no shutting down of facilities. It's just operating as an airport as we always have," Martin said.

There are only 12 licensed spaceports in the U.S. with only one of those in California in the Mojave Desert.

"We want to be one of those because we want to work with these companies who are capitalizing the economic development aspects of space travel in the future," Martin said.

The idea is to build a tech corridor around the spaceport project bringing in different industries involved in space technology.

This could equate to a significant number of jobs.

"From research and development to manufacturer to actual operations," Sloan said. "For every Ph.D., you have 10 to 15 engineer and technician jobs."

The city expects the application process, which is administered by the FAA, to take about a year.

Cube satellite technology was invented at Cal Poly about 20 years ago so the city says this project will bring that full circle.

The project will also allow for partnerships with the university which could help the airport receive grants.