Arkansas explores the possibility of a spaceport, Act 477 sets the stage


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Arkansas – Act 477, passed by the state legislature, has set Arkansas on a potential course towards the final frontier. The legislation orders the state Economic Development Commission to conduct a comprehensive study to assess the viability of constructing a spaceport within the state.

This endeavor was initially sparked by a report released in 2022 by the esteemed Arkansas Future Mobility Council. Comprised of a distinguished group of officials, academics, and prominent business leaders, including representatives from Walmart, Entergy, Tyson, and the Arkansas Departments of Transportation and Commerce, the council recommended the establishment of an Arkansas space authority. They argued that a spaceport would serve as a catalyst for significant economic growth and development in the state. These sentiments align with the sponsors of Act 477.

State Representative Aaron Pilkington of District 45 expressed the potential economic impact of a spaceport, stating, “If feasible and supported by the community, a spaceport could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development. To make this vision a reality, we need to ensure that we have the necessary workforce, industry, and conducive environment.”

State Senator Justin Boyd of District 27 added, “The spaceport represents just a fraction of the overall investment. Around 2 percent will be directed towards the spaceport itself, while the remaining 98 percent will be instrumental in capitalizing on the opportunities that arise when the University of Arkansas produces more engineers. This will result in the creation of high-paying jobs that will hopefully remain within Arkansas, offering a significant opportunity for our state.”

The Arkansas Future Mobility Council’s report drew upon examples from states that have established successful spaceports, notably referencing New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The report highlighted the substantial economic impact created by the facility, which generated $118 million in direct economic impact and created numerous job opportunities between 2013 and 2022.

Emphasizing the role of public policy as the catalyst for launching an international space hub in Arkansas, the report asserted that the right measures and initiatives are vital to seizing this potential opportunity.

With Act 477 soon to be in effect, Arkansas takes its first significant steps towards realizing this ambitious possibility.

State Representative Aaron Pilkington remarked, “There is a significant void in the middle of our country, where a spaceport is yet to be built or established. Arkansas has the potential to fill this gap and become a key player in the aerospace industry.”

He continued, “There is indeed a competitive race among states, with each vying to become the chosen location for spaceport development. Given that aerospace is one of Arkansas’s prominent industries, it seems only natural to pursue this opportunity. I view spaceports as the modern-day airports of the 1920s or 1930s, and becoming part of our national infrastructure would be a momentous achievement. Just as we have airports and seaports, spaceports represent the next evolution in our transportation and infrastructure landscape.”

While the prospect of a spaceport in Arkansas may appear ambitious, the global space race is gaining momentum, with both state and private entities aiming to venture into the vast expanse of space. Reports indicate that launch costs have significantly decreased, making space exploration more accessible than ever before.

If sufficient funding is secured, the deadline for the feasibility study is set for January 1, 2024.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the spacefaring economy will exceed $1.5 trillion by 2040, underscoring the immense potential for growth and opportunity within this industry.

Presently, the space industry supports over 140,000 jobs across the country.

It is important to note that only ten states in the United States possess Federal Aviation Administration-certified spaceports, highlighting the significance and exclusivity of this endeavor.


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