Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spaceport America In New Mexico To Open 2011

Governor Bill Richardson and Virgin
Galactic CEO Richard Branson
Welcome to Spaceport America fellow intrepid voyagers. Located near White Sands New Mexico, this world class, dare I say out of this world class facility, is slated to open for business sometime later this year. What kind of business? Space business.

Touted as "the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport", Spaceport America will provide launch facilities to support for-profit space enterprises, sub orbit (planning on low-orbit) tourism and hospitality. Wow. In our lifetime.

The initial construction ground breaking ceremony took place on June 19, 2009, culminating almost two decades of work to promote the commercialization of space by building a government licensed, but private launch facility outside of the provincial confines of NASA's Cape Canaveral located on the Florida coast.

Construction is due for completion in 2011
 The initial proposal for a commercial space facility was submitted by Dr. Burton Lee, of Stanford University back in 1990. He also wrote the initial business and strategic plans to obtain a 1.4 million dollar congressional earmark as seed money for studying and subsequently stumping for a federal land grant located in New Mexico near the US Army's White Sands Missile Test Range. Which is a mere 130 or so miles from the infamous alien spaceship crash site at Roswell New Mexico. Coincidence? I think not!

Governor Bill Richardson soon after convinced the X-Prize Foundation to move to New Mexico and shortly after landed the real prize by getting entertainment and airline mogul Richard Branson to relocate his Virgin Galactic company headquarters to the facility as well.

Proposed Spaceport Passenger Terminal
The finished site will rest on approximately 27 square miles of federal land, with almost 15 acres of combined facilities space: terminal and smaller aircraft hangars, support along with administrative offices for Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, a double-height hangar for housing the WhiteKnight Two and SpaceShipTwo crafts.

In addition, they will provide a primary operational training area, departure lounge, spacesuit dressing rooms, and celebration areas, on site restaurant and a mission control room with commanding views across the concrete apron and the 10,000 runway beyond.

SpaceShip Two in low orbit
Thus far, Virgin Galactic has accepted 370 reservations for suborbital trips, and collected $50 million in deposits. The company is planning on the maiden launch of its first flight in 2011 from Spaceport America. Book your tickets on Virgin Galactic's ticketing page!

And if $200,000 per ticket sounds a little steep to you, compare that to NASA's current ticket price of $20M. But after all, NASA gives you the full shuttle experience, multiple Earth orbits and spacefood! Whereas the Virgin Galactic experience would be more like the ultimate roller coaster ride into low Earth orbit and back. But, good news! They might be serving Tang as their in flight beverage!

Virgin Galactic
Spaceport America

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