DENVER (CBS4)- Space travel is no longer for astronauts and Colorado may soon have its very own spaceport.
Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Federal Aviation Administration to make Front Range Airport a designated spaceport. The airport is located in the small community of Watkins, six miles southeast of Denver International Airport.
"When this concept first came to us last August that was my take on it, 'Are you kidding me? Come on,'" said Front Range Airport Director of Aviation Dennis Heap.
Heap is now a believer. He said the airport is uniquely positioned to become a spaceport.
"It's unlike any piece of land in the entire United States," said Heap.
The 4,000 acre parcel is both remote and convenient because although it's located in rural Watkins, it's only minutes from DIA.
"How fortunate are we to have this airport with space to say, 'Hey, we'll do it,'" said Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper has made a pitch to the FAA, saying Colorado is home to more than 140 aerospace companies and ranks second only to California in revenue generated from the industry. He believes there isn't a better place for a spaceport than Colorado.
"And if it happens, it will be a unique competitive advantage," said Hickenlooper.
The sky is the limit-- so to speak. Imagine the job potential in research and development, engineering and manufacturing. There's also tourism to see a launch and then head up to the mountains for some skiing.
"We're talking a lot of jobs," said Sen. Mary Hodge, a Democrat representing Brighton.
Hodge is carrying legislation that gets us one step closer to the dream. The state will need limited liability to launch rockets.
"In layman's terms, if you get into a rocket ship to take off, you know you're taking that risk," said Hodge.
The rocket she's referring to is dual propulsion- which takes off like a conventional plane with jet engines, then switches to rocket engines when it reaches altitude.
"We could fly into DIA, pop out to the Front Range and in an hour and a half be in Australia," said Hodge.
Colorado could get a spaceport license by the end of the year and be testing pockets as early as 2014. Commercial flights could be taking off in as little as 10 to 15 years.
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