Members of the public could soon have the opportunity to fly into space and back from the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat. Rocketplane Limited Inc. will soon begin work on development and operation of a reusable launch vehicle, Senate Aerospace and Technology Committee Chairman Gilmer Capps and company officials announced at the Oklahoma State Capitol Friday.
"Oklahoma is on the cutting edge in this new field of civil and commercial space transportation. Reusable launch vehicles will bring down the cost of the space travel experience and could eventually make Oklahoma a hub for commercial space activity," said Capps, D-Snyder.
American Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth have both paid the Russian space agency $20 million for a trip into space on a conventional expendable launch vehicle. Rocketplane Limited will offer suborbital trips to space for approximately $100,000, said George French, company president.
The Rocketplane XP launch vehicle will take off and land like an airplane, but it will also have a reusable rocket engine that will propel it from 30,000 feet to over 60 miles in altitude. Rocketplane Limited will take space travelers 60 miles above Earth where they can experience zero gravity for three to four minutes before returning to the landing strip at Burns Flat.
The reusable launch vehicles can also carry scientific experiments into space to perform research in zero gravity or to qualify experiments for use on the International Space Station. Additionally, the rocketplanes will provide a platform for observation of earth for agricultural and environmental purposes.
French said Rocketplane Limited chose Oklahoma because of spaceport infrastructure and Oklahoma’s commitment to a space launch vehicle. The company was certified as a qualified space transportation vehicle by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Oklahoma Space Development Authority and the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Certification means investors in Rocketplane Limited will be eligible to receive state tax credits.
Capps, Rep. James Covey, D-Custer City and Rep. Jack Bonny, D-Burns Flat, were the authors of the legislation that created the tax credits. Under the statute, investors in the company can receive up to 59.9 percent tax credit on the value of their investment in Rocketplane Limited.
Capps also authored the legislation that created the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, a seven-member board which oversees development and operations of the spaceport at Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark in Burns Flat.
Under the direction of Rocketplane Limited’s officers and Board of Directors, including Gen. Merrill McPeak, Dr. James Stuart, Dr. William Byrd, Dr. Eric Rice, George French, Mitchell Burnside Clapp, David Urie and Charles Lauer, the company hopes to commence flights in September of 2006.
OSIDA Chairman Gen. Ken McGill said: “The leaders of Rocketplane Limited have exhibited tenacity, creativity and a belief in Oklahoma’s role as an aerospace leader. At OSIDA, we feel confident that this company’s presence at the Oklahoma Spaceport gives us a big advantage in meeting our goals of job creation in the aerospace industry.”
“This is a great opportunity for Oklahoma to embark on a new business frontier which will continue to solidify Oklahoma’s role as a leader in the aerospace industry as well as create new and exciting opportunities for all Oklahomans,” said OSIDA Deputy Director Bill Khourie.
Governor Brad Henry congratulated Rocketplane Limited officials and Capps on the announcement.
"This is exciting news for all of Oklahoma. This announcement is further proof of our state's dynamic and always-growing aviation and aerospace industry. There are many public officials who deserve thanks for this economic boost, particularly Sen. Gilmer Capps and Rep. Jack Bonny," Henry said.
An official ribbon cutting for Rocketplane Limited will be held at the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 12.