History in the Making: Midland Gets Green Light To Fly To Space

History in the Making: Midland Gets Green Light To Fly To Space

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

MIDLAND -  The city of Midland has been on a mission to be one of the first to offer people flights into space.  Wednesday marked a big step forward in making that possible, and also established a precedence in the aviation world. That's because the FAA approved Midland International Airport's spaceport license.

The license is a first of it's kind and has been two years in the works. But officials say they weren't exactly shocked to get it.

"The FAA had kind of run out of questions," CEO of XCOR Aerospace, Jeff Greason said.

There was a lot on the line regarding the decision, and not granting the license could have been a showstopper for the companies working to come to the Tall City.

CEO of Orbital Outfitters called it "one of the few remaining risk factors for committing so much to Midland." He said that they even let it influence their contract with the city, stating that  they could back out of the agreement if they had failed to get their license. But more than if they were going to get it, the question was mostly when.

"Just a few years ago many people thought getting that kind of a license as something that could take half a decade or even longer," Feige explained. But he said it came down to the people pushing for it, and the community support. "This whole story is that the people who run the airport really blew everybody at the FAA away and did something no one else has ever done before."

"Remember that this is rocket science and you gotta make sure you get it right the first time so there's a lot of safety testing and things that have to go on as you go along the process and sometimes you slip a little bit because of that,"Midland International Airport Director, Marv Esterly said.

The license was granted at the FAA's regular meeting in Washington D.C. Wednesday morning. Midland's is the ninth spaceport in the United States, but the first one that's located at a commercial airport. That second part is what was logistically questionable and unprecedented.

"Not everybody believed when we started the process that it was even going to be possible," Greason said, "Midland will now be the pattern for what does and doesn't work when you're trying to do that."

We're told multiple airports across the country have had their eyes on West Texas and are lining up to do the same.

City leaders believe this will have a major impact on the community here. They said it well help diversify the economy and bring in high paying jobs.

Now the next steps include getting XCOR and Orbital Outfitters moved into their new facilities in Midland.

And the airport's job is far from over...

"We are going to other space companies, and try to build a cluster of aerospace companies here in Midland," Esterly explained.

In terms of timelines, flight tests are expected to start in spring of 2015 with the first commercial flights possibly at the end of next year.