Spaceport America calls itself “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.” It was funded with an estimated $200 million investment from the New Mexico state government and provided the base for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which has launched humans into outer space from this facility.

According to the Feds, Spaceport America may also be hiding a pirate radio station.

On May 24 the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement arm sent a notice to Spaceport America alleging that their Denver office is investigating a complaint about an “unlicensed FM broadcast station operating on frequencies 95.3 MHz and 96.3 MHz”:

“An Agent from the Denver Office confirmed that unauthorized radio signals were transmitted on frequencies 95.3 MHzx and 96.3 MHz from the Spaceport America property located between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, between June 21 and June 25, 2022 during the Spaceport America Cup 2022 event.”


The letter — typically the first notice of an open investigation and warning prior to enforcement — states that continued broadcasting from the site may result in a fine in excess of $2 million.

Enabled with new powers by Congress under the industry-friendly PIRATE Act, the FCC has recently been dispatching a sheaf of enforcement letters like this, targeting a station catering to New York City Ecuadorians and another pirate radio station allegedly transmitting from a church.

Investigation of Spaceport America is even more egregious, though, as the spaceport is owned and operated by the state of New Mexico itself.

Despite terrestrial radio’s decline as a medium, the PIRATE Act (a retronym for “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement”) gave FCC investigators the ability to impose draconian punishments – up to $100,000 per day (up from $10,000) capped at $2 million. The bill also mandated yearly “sweeps” by FCC investigators to locate any pirates that may have slipped through the cracks.

By coincidence, Richard Branson — who gained his first notoriety in the music industry and later launched Virgin Radio — was on site at Spaceport America a day after the letter was sent, posting a selfie with the latest Virgin Galactic launch:

Photo: By Land Rover MENA – Land Rover Discovery Sport | Behind the Scenes, CC BY 2.0,