While recent years have witnessed breakthroughs in private space initiatives and in commercial support for spaceflight, the specific issues inherent in the design of spaceports require special examination. The airport paradigm has evolved over the course of the twentieth century from its basic functionality of airfield or runway strip and hangar to a complex transportation nexus of rail, air, road and sea transit, supported by various hospitality and training functions and other logistical functions. To date, spaceflight has largely been restricted to government programs which can accommodate internal planning and the ability to leverage other facilities, both military and civilian, to meet its needs. Commercial spaceflight will effect a radical change in the operational requirements for launch facilities, and along with these operational shifts come associated technical complexity that cannot always be met by leveraging publicly owned resources. There is every reason to expect that the facilities supporting commercial space access will follow a similar pattern of formal transformation to that which traces the history of air access, as technologies emerge and mature and as the market grows from the initial handful of wealthy suborbital tourists to a mass market we can now only imagine.
A financially and technically viable commercial spaceport will need to be capable of supporting not only the same strong and unambiguous connections and ground functions a regional airport can accommodate, but also the logistical and strategic resources necessary to enable flexible support of a changing array of space access technologies (e.g., launch pads, fuel farm, runways for horizontal takeoff and landing, efficient means of transporting resources across the site, etc). Along with these physical aspects of the specific architecture necessary to add the spaceflight element to a transportation facility are the invisible architectures dictated by launch range safety and ground operations (telemetry; communication; guidance, navigation and control, recovery range, SAR).
Synthesis was an early consultant on the by Foster+Partners/URS Corporation design team for Spaceport America.