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FAA Issues Spaceport License to Midland Airport in Texas

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a commercial spaceport license to Midland International Airport in Texas, marking the first time an airport with regular passenger air service has also been cleared to host spaceships. The launch site operator license was announced on Wednesday in Washington during a meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, or COMSTAC.

Midland will house the new headquarters and flight test operations center for XCOR Aerospace, which is transitioning from facilities in Mojave, California. Getting the license was a prerequisite for XCOR to run suborbital flight tests of its Lynx rocket plane in Texas. Several other U.S. airports, including the Mojave Air and Space Port, have spaceport licenses — but those airports don't have scheduled air service. XCOR President Andrew Nelson told NBC News that the company plans to start offering rocket plane trips to 38 miles (62 kilometers) in altitude in late 2015 or 2016, with trips to outer-space altitudes (65 miles, or 107 kilometers) beginning 12 to 18 months later. The ticket price for a suborbital space trip is $100,000.

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— Alan Boyle