New Mexico’s Governor, Bill Richardson, is announcing today the inaugural rocket launch in a series of space liftoffs planned for that state’s Southwest Regional Spaceport.

Richardson is set to recognize the spaceport activity at New Mexico’s State Capitol Building in Santa Fe.

When completed, the New Mexico spaceport—situated near Upham (roughly 45 miles north of Las Cruces and 30 miles east of Truth or Consequences)—will cover some 27 square miles.

The “ribbon cutting” flight in March of next year will carry seven experimental and commercial payloads for a variety of scholastic and business entities.

“It’s a historic moment for New Mexico in that we’ve talked about the spaceport for 15 years,” said Rick Homans, Spaceport Authority Chairman and New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary. “This means that in the next few months we’ll be actually turning some dirt.”

Still underway is the requisite work to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) – needed to obtain a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). That work has started, Homans said, and data collected during next year’s rocket launch will be used as part of the FAA license application.

Homans told that the first rocket launch from the spaceport is now slated for March 27, 2006. “Our feeling is that as soon as there are rockets actually launching from the spaceport, more companies will be knocking at our door.”

More here.