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Paso Robles partnering with Cal Poly to develop commercial spaceport

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Posted at 10:42 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 01:55:23-04

The City of Paso Robles is moving forward with plans for a commercial spaceport.

In a few years, space planes could be taking off from the Paso Robles Airport to deliver satellites into low-earth orbit.

The city has partnered with Cal Poly to make the project a reality.

“We’re looking at a horizontal launch license which is basically using a next-generation craft called space planes and they take off from conventional runways,” said Paul Sloan, economic development manager for the City of Paso Robles. “It basically looks like a small jet taking off and landing.”

Space planes would take off from the Paso Robles Airport, drop satellites into low-earth orbit, then return back to Earth.

The city is partnering with Cal Poly. The university is leading the application process with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I think it’s gonna be a real win-win for Cal Poly as well as Paso Robles,” said Cal Poly Professor Henry Danielson.

Plans for a spaceport were the topic of an informational meeting at the city council chambers Thursday night which included a CubeSat-- a lightweight satellite developed by Cal Poly and Stanford.

“It’s great because universities now can deploy their own CubeSats. It’s very affordable and they’re able to collect different pieces of science depending on what they would like to do,” said Danielson.

Universities often have to wait for a rocket launch to get their satellites into orbit which can take years. A spaceport would allow universities to send satellites into space without the wait.

“Having one here in Paso Robles would really change the landscape for us because we’ll be able to go really effectively and close,” added Danielson.

The city hopes to draw in aerospace companies and create a tech corridor at the Paso Robles Airport.

The ultimate goal is to bring more high-paying jobs into Paso Robles.

“Having Cal Poly as a partner is really amazing on many levels- just their name brand recognition in the engineering world has brought companies to us,” said Sloan.

Right now, there are only 13 licensed spaceports in the U.S. and only one on the West Coast, which is in Mojave.

Paso robles hopes to be home to the next spaceport in a project that can be summed up in just a few words.

“Science and space,” said Danielson.

The city hopes to have 12 space flights take off from the Paso Robles airport each year.

The goal is to submit the application by mid-next year and the first flights could take off in 2025 if all goes to plan.