Las Vegas Greenlit for Spaceport: Gateway to Recreational Space Travel

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With eyes towards the stars and feet planted firmly in the Nevada desert, Las Vegas seems to be checking off each box on its celestial charter. A venture that plans to shape a part of Vegas into a gateway to space—aptly named the Las Vegas Spaceport—has recently passed its second significant hurdle, receiving a nod of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a sliver of its grand scheme. The land, 240 acres of sun-stripped desert, is destined to transform into a private airport for recreational space travel.

The vision painted for the Las Vegas Spaceport is an awe-inspiring panorama. Nestled 45 minutes away from Vegas’ glaring lights on the border with Pahrump, Nev., the Spaceport will house the Las Vegas Executive Airport—an airstrip where developers dream of private planes depositing eager, adventurous civilians. These would-be astronauts will then journey to a collective hub known as the Las Vegas Space Center, bristling with anticipation.

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The Center will be an intricate tapestry of its own, blending space travel with terrestrial comforts. It will harbor a spaceport, of course, but also a ground school for flight acclimation training. Taking care of those earthbound needs will be a 200-room hotel, complete with a restaurant and an electrifying 20,000 square-foot casino.

Earlier this year, in May, the Clark County Commission greenlit construction permits for the Las Vegas Spaceport to build a $30 million runway. This approval unlocked about $10 million in investor pledges, as stated in an official press release.

However, the FAA documents only grant a partial approval. This means the approval strictly concerns the “safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft and with respect to the safety of persons and property on the ground.” It crucially steers clear of endorsing or repudiating any physical development related to the proposal.

As one might infer, the partial approval could become a sticking point for the project’s investors. The Las Vegas Spaceport is still sizing up the monumental task of raising the remaining funds to meet the project’s hefty overall $310 million price tag. Additionally, the company will need to find the perfect dance partner in one of the 37 companies currently courting FAA’s approval to build space planes. Likewise, a casino company and a hotel company will be required to pull the strings of gaming and hospitality operations, respectively.

With these considerations in mind, it seems the Spaceport’s first countdown remains more than a decade in the future.

“Why Vegas?” one might ask. Robert Lauer, the CEO of Las Vegas Spaceport, would respond with a swift: “Why not?”. In his view, Vegas’ position as a global hotspot, with 40 million visitors thronging its neon-lit streets annually, makes it an ideal hub for this venture.

Currently, 14 similar spaceports have licenses from the FAA. Only two of these are privately owned – one by SpaceX, a company synonymous with Elon Musk, and the other by e-commerce giant, Amazon. But whereas current rides with SpaceX or Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin could set you back anywhere between $200,000-$300,000, Lauer assures that costs could plunge to $30,000-50,000 per seat as the tech progresses, making the dream of space tourism more tangible to the average Joe.