Image: Spaceport America
Virgin Galactic
An artist's conception of the terminal at New Mexico's Spaceport America, which officials hope opens in late 2009 or early 2010.
updated 2/29/2008 6:12:39 PM ET 2008-02-29T23:12:39

A British rocket company, cited by New Mexico economic development officials as a potential tenant at the state's spaceport, is looking at other launch sites in Florida and Europe.

Steve Bennett, chief executive of Starchaser Industries, said Thursday by e-mail that the company performed a European Space Agency study contract "which effectively defined a 'road map to launch' for Starchaser."

"It became clear that New Mexico may not be the optimum location from which to conduct Starchaser operations," he wrote. "Launch location offers from Florida, as well as Europe, are therefore under consideration as possible alternatives."

Bennett didn't elaborate on reasons for the decision, but the company's fledgling operation west of Las Cruces — a small building along Interstate 10 — has been shuttered since November.

Spaceport America executive director Steve Landeene said he hadn't spoken with Bennett and didn't have additional details. But he said the company's decision won't affect plans to develop the $225 million spaceport.

"I wouldn't characterize it as a strike," Landeene said. "I haven't fully assessed the situation for Starchaser, but they were not in the core model. They are one of many out there on the horizon."

The facility is to be built in the desert east of Truth or Consequences. It is expected to be fully operational by 2010 but a Connecticut company successfully launched two rockets at the site last year.

"If people have a viable business plan going, we'd certainly love to have them come to New Mexico," Landeene said.

Starchaser officials previously said they wanted to capitalize on commercial access to space by building a rocket factory and astronaut training facility on the property outside Las Cruces.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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