Tourism Update: Bezos Badly Beating Branson

Santa Fe’s Solstar Space has gotten a fair amount of coverage for its plan to “create reliable internet connections in space for everyone.”

But New Mexico’s taxpayers should feel the sting of bitter irony over the company’s earning “bragging rights for providing the first commercial WiFi and Internet communications in suborbit” via a Blue Origin vehicle.

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’s launch firm performed the latest test of its New Shepard at the end of last month. The mission lofted the “second round of commercial payloads on board New Shepard for in-space science and technology demonstrations,” which included Solstar Space’s “technology demo to test the concept of providing commercial Wi-Fi access to in-space users.”

One of the greatest myths spread by supporters of “Spaceport America” is that once Richard Branson’s Vigin Galactic gets its engineering right, space tourism will flourish at the Sierra County-based facility.

The real story is more complex. As difficult and dangerous as space travel is, there’s no shortage of competitors in the race to put tourists in suborbit. (And even orbit.) Right now, it appears that Blue Origin has a strong lead. Eight tests of the New Shepard have been completed — and each flirted with the Kármán line. In contrast, since Virgin Galactic’s fatality in the fall of 2014, its has launched a single powered test flight, which came nowhere near the boundary of the atmosphere and space.

Meanwhile, Exos Aerospace Systems & Technologies has removed the launch countdown from its website, and replaced it with:

Originally scheduled for April 7, time will tell if the company’s test is ever conducted in New Mexico.

A final note about the spaceport’s perpetual failure: Last week, small-launcher developer Firefly Aerospace “won approval from the U.S. Air Force to take over a launch pad at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base used by the soon-to-retire Delta 2.”

The commercial-space industry continues to follow a strategy that can only make the Land of Enchantment’s taxpayers cringe: “Anywhere but New Mexico.”

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