Colorado Air & Space Port

One of only 12 FAA-licensed space port sites in the country, Colorado Air & Space Port is America’s hub for commercial space transportation, research, and development.


 

During a recent Reaction Engines test at Colorado Air and Space Port, the roar of a J79 turbojet engine rattled the tin hangar walls at Test Facility 2. The jet’s 780-degree exhaust was piped through Reaction’s cutting-edge pre-cooler, a device designed reduce the inlet temperature in flights nearing hypersonic speed, a breakthrough the company says will push the flight envelope from the Mach 3.3 of the SR71 Blackbird, to beyond Mach 5.

The Reaction team is the first aerospace company to take up residence at the Colorado Air and Space Port, but may soon be joined by a contingent from Japanese-based rocket maker PD Aerospace, which signed a letter of intent to operate at the site, according to Colorado Air and Space Port Director Dave Ruppel.

As one of only 12 FAA-licensed space port sites in the country as of early 2019, Ruppel says the Colorado site can facilitate a broad range of aerospace and aviation operations, making it an enticing draw for companies in Colorado’s booming aerospace sector.

“At the most basic level, it’s another line of business for the airport—now Colorado Air and Space Port—that will hopefully bring in some additional opportunities for revenue to support the Space Port, but I think it’s much more than that,” Ruppel says. “There’s a lot of value in looking at the other companies that kind of make up that aerospace ecosystem, and there are a lot of companies involved in that.

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“They support each other, they depend on each other. Those are the kind of companies we’re really trying to reach out to and attract here so that we can build a local aerospace economy here and an ecosystem right here at the air and space port that is made up of those companies.”

Beyond rocket makers, Ruppel says future tenants might include satellite developers, space flight training facilities and UAS and UAV technologies, among others.

“Those are great crossover technologies that also have applications within aerospace and aviation,” Ruppel says. “We worked hard to make this a regional entity that supports not only activities here, but also supports the activities that are going on in the aerospace environment and the industrial environment in the state of Colorado and in this region,”

With more than 400 aerospace and aviation-related companies operating in the state, Colorado contains one of the country’s largest such economies. For prospective and current Space Port tenants, this means access to resources and skilled labor, in addition to facilities.

“Beyond [runway space], it’s being able to provide those companies easy access to a great international airport, being able to provide those companies with easy access to a tremendous workforce in the state and in the metropolitan area, being able to provide those companies with access to multi-modal transportation,” Ruppel says. “We have access to a great lifestyle here in Colorado and a great place to live and a very supportive local municipal government in Adams County as well as in the surrounding municipalities.”

For Reaction Engines, which built Test Facility 2 at the Colorado Air and Space Port to serve as a custom-made proving ground for its precooler technology, the site would also allow the company to test engines using the precooler technology for super and hypersonic space flight as well as commercial travel, thanks to the site’s dual-use status as an airport and space port.

As for the company’s initial test of its precooler at Mach 3.3 speeds, Tansing reports the precooler worked  perfectly, cooling the near-800 degree jet exhaust. The company will continue testing, eventually pushing air flow through the precooler at temperatures up to 1,800 degrees with the use of an afterburner on the J79.

“It’s been an excellent partnership and we couldn’t have asked for a better fit, honestly,” Adrian Tansing of Reaction Engines.