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Paso Robles takes next step in "spaceport" designation, passing a budget for the application process

Benjamin Purper
A sign at the Paso Robles Municipal Airport reads: "Air crews and passengers only beyond this point."

The idea of turning the Paso Robles Municipal Airport is one step closer to reality after the City Council unanimously voted to approve a budget for the next step of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s application process.

Paul Sloan is the Economic Development Manager for the City of Paso Robles. He said this designation would be through a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, rather than any new construction or infrastructure. It allow the airport to launch mostly miniature satellites, called Cubesats, in horizontal launches. That's different from vertical launches of large rockets, like those at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The airport itself will look the same if the license goes through, as there would be no new infrastructure created. The spaceport designation would simply allow those small launches to take off from Paso Robles.

“It's just a certification," Sloan said. "A lot of times people imagine the Jetsons and spacey-looking buildings, but it's just a license that you apply for.”

Benjamin Purper
Paul Sloan shared maps and visualizations with KCBX at the Paso Robles Airport.

The Paso Robles City Council this month unanimously approved the next step of the process: a budget of up to $140,000 to fund research, visualizations and communications over the next few months.

Sloan said the spaceport designation is part of the City Council’s intentional step towards the technology sector and diversifying the city’s economy.

“So for us, we're looking at technology for higher paying jobs, but also complementing and diversifying the economy," Sloan said. "So we looked to see what if anything may be the possibilities for us to participate in that economy, that sector, and what could be possible with our very long runway and our over 300 clear blue sky days here at the airport.”

Sloan said the spaceport license process will take several years, but as far as the technical aspect, a recent review commissioned by the city found “no fatal flaws” with the project.

The city is looking at obtaining the license around 2024, if everything goes according to plan.

Benjamin Purper came to KCBX in May of 2021 from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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