Comptroller's Office Looks at NewSpace Industry in Texas at the End of the Shuttle Era

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When the space shuttle Endeavour touches down in a little more than a week, NASA's shuttle program will come down to just one more mission: Atlantis's launch set for July. It's the moment private space industry's been gearing up for, when America's space program will really depend on small entrepreneur-led outfits like Caddo Mills-based Armadillo Aerospace.

We took a longer look at John Carmack's Armadillo squad in the Paper Version of Unfair Park a little more than 0a year ago, when they'd just started selling tickets for suborbital flights. At the time, their new tube-shaped rocket, "Stig," was just a few metal pieces and blueprints in their garage. Earlier this spring, they announced it was finished.

All of which is just the backdrop for a lengthy interview with leading NewSpace thinker Richard Garriott, in Fiscal Notes, the Texas Comptroller's surprisingly readable newsletter.

The last installment of the interview appears in this month's issue, with Garriott covering some of Texas's smaller private space outfits, and why the state's in good shape to take a lead in the new industry.

Garriott covers Armadillo's progress in the second installment, earlier this year, and in the first installment, his own growth from an astronaut's son to a NewSpace evangelist. (Garriott covered similar ground in his talk at last year's QuakeCon, alongside Armadillo's Carmack.)

In the most recent interview, Garriott says Texas is positioned well to become a major player in the NewSpace industry, thanks to the legacy of space research around Houston, Armadillo's base near Dallas and the SpaceX test facility in McGregor, Texas. "I think it would start with a high-level vision statement," Garriott says, "where someone, the governor perhaps, says look, Texas needs to be part of this new economy, like we're already doing with clean energy and a number of other things."

Decades since Apollo, with NASA's big Constellation project scrapped and spending tight everywhere in government, Garriott says the next couple years will usher in a "barnstorming era" of space travel, much like early airplane tinkerers:

We'll see many people leaving the Earth, starting to do wild, crazy, often dangerous and sometimes fatal things, privately -- so it's not one of these things where every time we crash a shuttle we take everything offline for five years and debate who's at fault. It's a private individual taking their own private risks, and sometimes they succeed gloriously and sometimes they don't, gloriously.

Read the rest of the chat here.

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