Spaceport America Dedicates Its Runway; Flights *Could* Begin in 2011

By Jennifer Welsh | October 22, 2010 5:26 pm

spaceport1Just two weeks after the first solo flight of Virgin Galactic’s space tourist ship, the company’s bigwigs gathered again to celebrate the completion of the two-mile, 200-foot wide runway of the world’s first commercial spaceport.

Spaceport America is the world’s first facility designed specifically to launch commercial spacecraft. The celebration of its nearly-two-mile-long runway comes less than two weeks after another major step for Virgin Galactic: the first solo glide flight of its space tourism rocket ship. [ABC News]

Its name may make it sound like an amusement park, but Spaceport America is well on its way to being a real portal to space for the wealthy private citizen. Its construction is being funded by New Mexico taxpayer dollars and commercial space companies; it has already been designated the home of Virgin Galactic’s space tourism operations. But the spaceport, located 45 miles outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is able to support a variety of spacecraft, and other commercial space companies are beginning to get involved. The spaceport is scheduled to be fully operational in 2011.

Virgin Galactic says it has already signed over 380 customers (at $200,000 a head) to take a two and a half hour flight to the edge of space (that includes a whole five minutes of weightlessness); some of the customers were present for the runway dedication today. Richard Branson, the company’s founder, said that it will still be at least a year before their first tourist flight will take off. When that day finally arrives, the Virgin Galactic “mothership” will take off from Spaceport America’s runway and soar to an altitude of 48,000 feet before releasing the spaceship VSS Enterprise, which will take passengers the rest of the way up.

“The mothership has been finished and flying for a while now,” he said. “We’ll do many, many, many test flights over the next 12 months to maybe 18 months before we actually send people up into space. But we’re entering the last stages of the test program and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now,” he said. [AFP]

Related content:
80beats: Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship-for-Tourists Takes Its First Solo Flight
80beats: Virgin Galactic Unveils Its New Space Tourism Rocket
Science Not Fiction: Ralph: The Official Mascot of Space Tourism
DISCOVER: #44: Spaceport Breaks Ground in New Mexico
Discoblog: Space Tourists Will Get Their Own Special Space Beer
Bad Astronomy: How safe is space tourism?

Image: Spaceport America

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology
  • http://www.buzztown.com Daniel Davenport

    You can find photos of the fly over here http://www.buzztown.com/user/pix-flix.html?userId=4151

  • Woody Tanaka

    And of course it’s built at taxpayer expense. Why it wouldn’t be”capitalism” if we didn’t socialize the costs… Let me guess, the taxpayers don’t get even a single ride for all the billions that this is going to cost. But the overlords will get to fly at a reduced price thanks to the taxes paid by the peons. After all, what’s a few schools and bridges when, instead, we can subsidize Gordon Gekko’s play time…

  • Tyler

    @woody Well the idea is that it brings attention/tourism/whatever to the state. They probably also get money directly from the use of the runway… so, it’s a state investment. I wouldn’t pass judgment on that just yet, but having the only spaceport in the US is something I wouldn’t immediately call a bad investment.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    At a prize of $20 000, it isn’t exactly an “overlord” exclusive. That is why adventure business is called “a mass market”, after all.

    Then again, what societal policies have to do with a single venture is a mystery … wait, no, it’s not, it (space vs non-socialism) is a false choice fallacy. Pity, since surely such politics can be reasonable to discuss, while having to make wrong arguments in the wrong forum suggests they are not!?

  • DDD

    How is this built with taxpayer money? Virgin Galactic is a private company douchewad.

  • vince

    @DDD, it says in the article it’s built with taxpayer money. if you read it, you would know that… douchewad

  • marco

    i am assuming that one of the reasons this is being partially funded by the taxpayers in NM is because the spaceport will bring in money and tourism into NM, which will benefit those who live there

  • Tim

    @ 4

    First of all, it’s $200,000, not $20,000. Second of all, if you think that $20,000 a head opens this up to a vast number of Americans, you have a very delusional view of wealth distribution. I understand why it’s so expensive, and that’s fine, but don’t act like it’s something that it’s not.

    @5

    Look into the building of sports stadiums. You’ll have your mind blown!

  • Jennifer Welsh

    Hi all,

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    A few notes: currently Virgin Galactic IS the only commercial space company involved in the Spaceport America, but they are trying to attract other companies.

    Also, these companies are not just doing space tourism, but other commercial space ventures, which would not only be launching commercial, scientific and governmental payloads, but will also be picking up some of the slack for ferrying astronauts to the ISS after the shuttle Atlantis makes her final flight early next year.

    All in all, I agree with what people have been pointing out about the taxpayer issue. The New Mexico government IS helping to create this spaceport (along with commercial investors), but I agree it will have an impact on their tourism economy, and also foster growth of and investment by these commercial spaceflight companies in the area.

    Jen

  • http://none Andrew Alexander

    The next time someone needs an emergency medical transport, I will bet that the asking price is nothing compared to the impact it will have on the recipient of the medicine. This port is revolutionary, thoughfully planned and has many arms of growth that can positively affect the State of New Mexico and the United States as a nation. The spaceport is an important vehicle for yes, commerce, travel, space, tourism, the Department of Defense, NASA, the State of New Mexico and the United States Government. We live in a world of trans-world transportation to the other side of the earth that can be accomplished in a 45 minute ride. Wheh, have we come a long way or what? Many believers in the positives of Aeoronautics with a twist, might just make believers out of those countries that have always looked to America for the lead in many industries, so why not space? Small mindedness will not open many doors in a world that agrees about the future. The rest of the world continues to tune in as we step one more step into all our futures. Ameicans of vision will know immediately the importance of such a developement. This type of business is an asset for many American and pro-American countries throughout the world. Congratulations Sir Richard in your tenacious approach to the Spaceport! Bravo!

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