News Oklahoma reported in a Jan. 21, 2013 story that there is rising discontent among Oklahomans over the condition of a facility called the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark in Burns Flat, designated as a space port in 1999 with a state space port authority that has been tasked to manage it. Unfortunately the facility consists mainly of run down warehouses and dilapidated hangers, having failed to attract any serious business.
One company, Rocketplane Ltd, did at one time express interest in using the Oklahoma space port, but stayed only long enough to collect $18 million in state tax payers’ money before absconding to Wisconsin and eventually going bankrupt.
While three years later, state officials are still hopeful that the space port will eventually attract a tenant, none seems to be in sight. There are now calls to turn the facility into a more conventional industrial park, which would likely call for the expenditure of more money to refurbish the run down facilities on the site.
While the era of space tourism, with horizontal take off and landing vehicles taking the well heeled and adventurous to the edge of space, is drawing closer, with Virgin Galactic and XCOR making progress, the experience of the Oklahoma Space Port should serve as a lesson in the perils of having government move too soon to support an industry that was clearly not ready in 1999 to develop operational businesses.