An Illinois City Is Considering Building A Commercial Spaceport
We've got airports for planes, we've got seaports for ships, and we have spaceports for spacecraft scattered throughout the country, too. Obviously, there are more of the first two than the last one, but if one Illinois city gets its wish, there will be another spaceport within easy driving distance of most of the state of Illinois.
So, what exactly is a spaceport, and why should we care if one were to be placed in Illinois?
Just like an airport is where you might catch an international flight to your favorite holiday destination, spaceports are ground-based facilities where space organizations — both national and now commercial — launch craft into space.
Whether it's satellites and rockets or the increasing number of flights being developed by the private sector, over the coming years it's the kind of thing we're likely to see more and more of.
The Quad Cities International Airport, Located In Moline, Illinois Is Hoping That An FAA Study To Determine Whether Their Airport Could Support A Spaceport Comes Back Positive
It probably should be pointed out that even if the assessment is positive, a project like this will probably take years (maybe decades) to go from the feasibility study to an actual completed and working spaceport.
Across the United States, there are several spaceports and launch/reentry sites located in:
- New Mexico
There Are Different Types Of Spaceports, And The Quad Cities Airport Hopes To Make Use Of Its 10,000 Foot Runway For "Horizontal Launches"
Vertical launch spaceports are pretty much what they sound like, and what the photo above shows. Spacecraft lift off directly from the spaceport and head vertically into space.
The Quad Cities Airport's plan is to be a horizontal launch site, where a plane takes off carrying a spacecraft. Once the plane hits the upper atmosphere, the spacecraft detaches and makes its way into orbit.
On a tour of the airport Monday, Rep. Eric Sorensen, D-Ill., who is the ranking member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said he was "so excited that the Quad Cities International Airport is putting themselves forward as a potential for a spaceport."
"We've got to look out 10, 20, 30 years in advance of when we're going to need the service," Sorensen said.
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Gallery Credit: Laura Ratliff