If You Exempt It, They Will Come?

SB 429, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen (D-Las Cruces), is titled the “Spaceport Confidential Records Act.” The bill would make “sensitive and proprietary private entity customer information” maintained by New Mexico’s spaceport authority — proprietor of “Spaceport America” — exempt from the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Given how little activity is occurring at New Mexico’s boondoggle-in-the-desert, the legislation seems rather unnecessary. With zero launches in all of 2016, and nothing headed for space so far in 2017, it’s not likely that many launch companies are concerned over prying eyes using New Mexico’s freedom-of-information law to ferret out trade secrets.

Meanwhile, the space industry stubbornly refuses to come to New Mexico to put its payloads in orbit. Recent developments at other facilities include:

* World View Enterprises opened “its new Global Headquarters campus, collocated with Spaceport Tucson,” calling it “the world’s first purpose-built commercial gateway to the Stratosphere.” For years, Spaceport America bureaucrats mentioned the company as a potential tenant. WVE decided otherwise, picking Arizona “after a rigorous nation-wide search and negotiations with multiple state agencies.”

* The FAA continues to evaluate LauncherOne’s proposal to place small satellites in orbit from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. Virgin Galactic, the company that was supposed to start sending tourists on suborbital flights from Spaceport America years ago, owns LauncherOne.

* Way up in Canada, Maritime Launch Services, “a newly registered company in Nova Scotia with roots in the U.S and the Ukraine,” is looking to send medium-class payloads into orbit from the Maritime province.

* Way down in New Zealand, Rocket Lab is conducting “pre-flight tests and checkouts” for the inaugural launch of its Electron rocket. In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that the startup firm’s facility, located on the Mahia Peninsula, has locals sensing “an opportunity for jobs and rocket tourism in their new but still alien industry, with plans to build holiday units and offer bus rides to starry-eyed space tourists.”

Maybe instead of drafting legislation that doubles down on New Mexico’s dismal “investment” in Spaceport America, Sen. Papen should work with Sen. George Munoz (D-Gallup) to offer the white elephant to the highest bidder.