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The Natural State might potentially host a spaceport, according to Arkansas government officials



Little Rock, Arkansas – Act 477, passed by the state legislature, directs the Economic Development Commission to explore the viability of establishing a spaceport right here in Arkansas. It appears like the Natural State may be headed for the final frontier.

The Arkansas Future Mobility Council, a group of academics, businessmen, and executives from Walmart, Entergy, Tyson, and the Arkansas Departments of Transportation and Commerce, published a report in 2022 that served as the catalyst for the rest of the process.

The Council suggested the governor create an Arkansas space authority to run a prospective spaceport, which they claimed would be beneficial to the state’s economy. The people behind Act 477 agree with such point of view.

“Upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars of economic development if you get one going, if it’s feasible, if it makes sense for the community, and you’ve got the workforce and the industry—which, luckily, we do have the workforce and the industry, but it’s making sure we have the environment for it,” said State Representative Aaron Pilkington (R) of District 45.

“The spaceport is just one small portion of this. Maybe that’s 2 percent of the investment,” said State Senator Justin Boyd (R) of District 27, “now, 98 percent is what happens when the University of Arkansas starts producing more engineers—you have higher dollar jobs that are being created here in Arkansas hopefully to stay in Arkansas. So, this creates a real opportunity.”

The few states that already have spaceports were noted in the Arkansas Future Mobility Council study as examples, particularly New Mexico’s Spaceport America, which between 2013 and 2022 generated $118 million in direct economic effect in addition to hundreds of employment.

According to the paper, public policy provides the “rocket fuel” required to launch a prospective global space hub in Arkansas.

The initial moves in that direction are being taken with Act 477 about to go into force.

“There’s a large swathe of middle America that’s currently not being served by a spaceport that’s being built or has been built. So, it’s a big gap in the middle of our country and I think Arkansas could fill that gap,” Pilkington said.

“I think there’s a little bit of a race. ‘I wanna be built in Arkansas, I don’t want to be built in Missouri or Illinois or anywhere else.’ Aerospace is one of the biggest industries we have here in Arkansas. and so, to me it seemed like a natural thing…the way I thought about it too was, spaceports are the airports of the 1920s or 1930s. Really, it’s one of those deals where if we get in on the ground floor, it essentially will become part of our national infrastructure. You know: you have airports, water ports—spaceports are kind of the next evolution of that,” he said.

It may seem unlikely that Arkansas might host a spaceport, but governmental and commercial organizations are vying for the top positions in the growing international space race. According to rumors, launch prices have dropped and entry to the last frontier is now easier than ever.

The deadline for the feasibility study is January 1, 2024, assuming financing is available.

By 2040, the spacefaring economy is predicted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to be at least $1.5 trillion.

There are currently more than 140,000 employees supported by the industry in the nation.

Only 10 states in the nation have spaceports that have received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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