I’ve been thinking about spaceports a lot recently.

futuristic spaceport
futuristic spaceport

Not sure why, exactly – I think that they’ve coincidentally been brought to my attention from several independent sources around the same time. I just finished re-reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels (for the hundredth time) in which there are frequent references to spaceports, a necessity in a Galactic Empire spanning around 25 million inhabited worlds. I also recently read an article in The Atlantic about a (very real) spaceport being planned in Melness, at the very northern border of Scotland, and its economic impacts on the local population. And of course I try to keep up with rocketry news in general, including SpaceX and its spaceport at Boca Chica, as well as various launches out of Spaceport America in New Mexico.

All of this makes me a bit curious about the history and origin of spaceports, as well as the rules governing them. When I first got into rocketry, I knew absolutely nothing. Some might say I still know nothing, and this would not be an inaccurate characterization. But in the beginning, no question was too stupid. How do you go about building a rocket? Can anyone just launch a rocket, from anywhere? Is it legal? Are there any rules?

Having never given more than a cursory thought to spaceports before, I’m in a similarly ignorant position. What exactly is a spaceport? What are the criteria to qualify as one? Can anyone – with sufficient time and resources – just build one? Can it only be in certain locations, or could it be anywhere? What does the government have to say about spaceports, if anything?

Time to find out!

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