A privately owned company with global
headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico, will be offering space travel
to the general public.
WHO IS BEHIND THIS
The company that attempts to carry out this project is
called Virgin Galactic.
Their owner is Sir Richard Branson.
WHERE IS SPACEPORT
Spaceport America is yet another neighbor of White Sands National
Monument. It is located in southern Sierra County, near Upham, 45
miles northeast of Las Cruces, South Central New Mexico and 30 miles
southeast of Truth and Consequences in Sierra County, NM.
US consulting firm Futron estimates the
New Mexico spaceport could create 3460 new jobs and $460 million
spending in the state by 2015.
HARDHAT TOURS Public tours
are available since December 2009. You will get a quick tune up of
your New Mexican history (can't hurt, let's face it) and of course you
will get the tour of the construction site. Exciting, exciting...
WHAT'S IT GONNA LOOK LIKE?
It is going to look like this:
West Entrance Elevation
East Elevation to Runway
All three pics above by Foster + Partners, the architects. Their 2.2 acre / 9,000m2 design will house a spaceship
hangar and an astronaut terminal control room. And they comment as follows:
The sinuous shape of the building in
the landscape and its interior spaces seek to capture the drama and
mystery of space flight itself, articulating the thrill of space travel
for the first space tourists.
WHEN WILL SPACEPORT
AMERICA BE READY? Spaceport America
was scheduled to open for business
late 2010 / early 2011.
That's when the 10,000 foot long runway and a terminal hangar facility
was expected to be complete.
September 27, 2010 - Here is an AFP
update on the launch date:
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard
Branson said Monday [September 27, 2010] that Virgin Galactic is on
track to offer commercial space travel within 18 months, and that space
hotels are next on the drawing board.
The project's SpaceshipTwo, an aircraft built by aviation engineer Burt
Rutan and designed to carry paying customers into suborbital space, had
its maiden flight in the California desert in March.
"We just finished building SpaceShipTwo. We are 18 months away from
taking people into space," Branson told a business conference in Kuala
Lumpur, adding that the fare will start at 200,000 dollars.
Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world's first commercial
company to promote space tourism, has already collected 45 million
dollars in deposits from more than 330 people who have reserved seats
aboard the six-person craft.
Branson also has visions of establishing hotels in space, which
well-heeled tourists can use as a base for shuttle flights over the
"We are looking at hotels in space. We love the moon," the tycoon said,
adding that he was also interested in launching "small satellites into
space" for the benefit of schools and universities.
WHAT KIND OF SPACE
TRIP ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? Virgin Galactic's space trip will last approximately 2 1/2 hours. There will be 3 days
pre-flight preparation, bonding, and training onsite at the Spaceport.
Initially, it is planned to offer one flight per week. As operations progress, this
will increase to one and potentially two flights per day.
You will book a seat aboard Virgin's
Space Ship Two, a small spacecraft that will hitch a ride on the
mother ship White Knight Two, the world's largest carbon-fiber
aircraft, which will climb to a height of 50,000 feet, before blasting
off towards the edge of space.
During the two-and-a-half-hour round
trip, passengers will be propelled to an altitude of 70 miles at a speed
of more than 2,000 mph. As the spacecraft reaches the top of its
trajectory the private astronauts will be able to unclip from their
seats and experience four to six minutes of weightlessness.
HOW MUCH IS IT GONNA
Tickets go for US$200,000. Virgin has
been selling tickets since 2005 and already hundreds have signed
up. The first 100 had to pay their full US$200,000 fare up
However, if the technical development
of the spaceship is completed earlier than the construction of Spaceport
America, people will be launched from Mojave Spaceport, California, where
Burt Rutan shaped, formed, and optimized Virgin Galactic's spacecrafts.
VIRGIN - THE WORLD'S FIRST
COMMERCIAL SPACELINE? Photo: Virgin Galactic
Is it going to be safe?
Well, Branson and his children, Sam and
Holly, will be the first commercial passengers on SpaceShipTwo. And we
get the hint.
Now... there is another space trip vendor who will offer trips for
$100,000 per pop. Rocket Racing, Inc. and Armadillo Aerospace of
Mesquite, Texas, are behind this competitive proposal. They say they
will be ready in 2010. They too will take off from Spaceport America in
Two passengers at a time will launch
into suborbital space about 62 miles (100 km) above earth and experience
a few minutes of weightlessness before beginning their descent. The kicker? They will be enjoying a 360 degree view thanks to a
bubble-like design. Check it out:
SPACE TRIPPERS IN A JAR
BROUGHT TO YOU BY ARMADILLO AEROSPACE
And the guys from Galactic Suite Limited
are planning to be the world's largest chain of space resorts. They say
they will be ready for business by the end of 2012. Spend eight weeks in
the Caribbean and the weekend in space. Oh yeah, and pay $4.4 million (3 million
Euros). Here it goes:
AFTER AN EIGHT-WEEK TRAINING ON A TROPICAL ISLAND
YOU WILL BE WATCHING 15 SUNSETS PER DAY IN SPACE
WHO PAYS FOR ALL
THIS? - SPACE PORT TAX
The $198 million Spaceport America being built in Sierra County was
expected to be completed in 2010.
The company states that Virgin Galactic has "committed the
resources required to ensure proper funding."
Virgin Galactic will receive a funding of $100 million
State of New Mexico, so the State decided in 2006. In addition, the State
will design and construct all necessary facilities.
However, in order to charge an
additional tax two counties have to approve it. On Tuesday, April 22,
2008, Sierra County did exactly that. Doņa Ana County followed suit on
July 22, 2008. These fine people are now helping
the spaceport out with a 0.25% sales tax. In other words, the spaceport
gets 25 cents for each $100 purchased.
But not everybody is as cheerful a
giver. On November 5, 2008, Otero County voted
against the Spaceport America tax. 52.3 percent voted against,
47.7 percent voted for the tax. This means the spaceport project will
have some $2 to $6 million less to spend.
The Spaceport Tax in Detail:
Legislature required the formation of a tax district to collect the
gross receipts taxes approved in 2008 by voters in Doņa Ana and Sierra
counties. Who's gonna keep track of the public cash? The Spaceport
America Regional District Board.
A special inaugural meeting of the Board of Directors of the Regional
Spaceport Tax District was held on Friday, January 23, 2009, in Hatch,
New Mexico in order to formally begin operations of the Spaceport
America Regional Spaceport District.
THE NEW SPACESHIP WILL
PASSENGERS AND TWO PILOTS PER FLIGHT Photo: Virgin Galactic
Via press release of March 28, 2007, the New Mexico Economic Development
Department announced that Virgin Galactic signed a Memorandum of Agreement
with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority setting out the terms under which
Virgin Galactic would lease approximately 83,400 square feet of hangar and
terminal facilities at Spaceport America.
The NMSA will construct common facilities that will include runways,
emergency facilities, fuel storage and delivery, perimeter security,
restaurant and concessions, and visitor viewing areas. Tenants will pay
User Fees to use these facilities.
In effect, the NMSA will build and own the Virgin Galactic facilities and
then lease them to Virgin Galactic.
Spaceport America is expected to have the potential to create up to 5,000
new jobs and up to $1 billion in new revenue in the State.
... an artist's rendering
WHAT ELSE IS VIRGIN
GALACTIC UP TO?
Spaceports across the world are envisioned with specially selected travel
agents offering to sign on for the ultimate trip. The European spaceport
is planned to be located in Kiruna, Sweden.
In January 2009, Spaceport America and
Spaceport Sweden have signed a Memorandum of Understanding. They will
help each other developing the commercial space industry and
henceforward call each other Sister Spaceport.
On September 5, 2009, Richard Branson, CEO of
Virgin Galactic, gave an interview on Swedish TV4. Here is an excerpt:
Fredrik Andersson, TV4: - Do you think
that we will travel to space in the same way as we travel to for example
Richard Branson: - I dont think that people will travel to space in the
same way they travel to Thailand. Having said that I think that the
technology that we are developing at Virgin Galactic for space travels
may well enable you to go to Thailand from Scandinavia in half an hour
by popping you out of the Earth's atmosphere and then straight back
again at an affordable price. I think that in your lifetime that is a
- Is that the next step for Virgin Galactic?
- That is the next step for Virgin Galactic. The first step for Virgin
Galactic is to let people marvel and enjoy the experience of going into
space. The next step will be to try to see if we can use the technology
to get people to travel very quickly around the world.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
AT THE SPACEPORT IN NEW MEXICO?
Aerospace, lone tenant at Spaceport America, has already made themselves
at home with a 20 by 100 foot concrete takeoff spot and an equipment
The company UP Aerospace has already launched the remains of Astronaut L
Gordon Cooper, Actor James Doohan (Scotty on Star Trek, circled
in the picture to the left) and
200 others into space. The date: April
28, 2007. In fact, the 20-foot-rocket made a 4-minute suborbital flight,
parachuted back to earth, and was recovered from the top of the San Andres Mountain
range May 18, 2007.
The company logged another successful
launch in December 2007, though details of that commercially sensitive
mission haven't been disclosed. It is rumored to have been a small
demonstration launch to test proprietary technology currently under
development by Lockheed Martin. Additional flights included about 50
Starting at $2,000 you too were able to let UP Aerospace
shoot your items of choice into space. Now it seems that they have
discontinued their service.
But check out
Celestis, the company that offers
memorial space flights.
UP TO DATE WITH SPACEPORT AMERICA December 4, 2011 -
At around 11:00 am today, Armadillo Aerospace successfully launched an
advanced sounding rocket. The press release reads:
Armadillo Aerospace is a
leading developer of reusable rocket-powered vehicles and plans
to provide a platform for civilian access to suborbital space
via its partnership with Space Adventures, Ltd.
October 27, 2011 -
Virgin Galactic plowed through 500 job applications and selected their
first astronaut pilot. And the lucky winner is ....
Photo: Virgin Galactic
There will be more hiring, so if you
fancy this job, it ain't too late.
October 17, 2011 - Official dedication
ceremony of Spaceport America. More than 800 guests marveled at Virgin
Galactics commercial space vehicles as they soared through the skies of
southern New Mexico. Spotted in the crowd were New Mexico Governor
Susana Martinez and U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce.
August 26, 2011 -
Spaceport America receives a federal grant for the second consecutive
year. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant is worth $249,378
toward the cost of a roll-back vehicle integration building at Spaceport
July 6, 2011 -
Virgin Money, a financial services company, and one of Branson's many
Virgin flavors, has a special promotion for its Australian customers to
celebrate its birthday:
April 21, 2011 - You will be able to
tour Spaceport America, starting Friday, May 13. The tour company that
will take good care of you is Follow the Sun Inc, based in
Albuquerque. And yes, their website at ftstours.com does make you wanna
scratch your eyeballs from the inside. But remember, they just gonna
drive you. They don't threaten to re-design your living room.
What will you be able to see? All
spaceflight facilities before operations begin. The three-hour tour will
cost adults $59 and $29 for children under 12.
Tours will be conducted each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
April 18, 2011 - And the new boss is
active. According to Las Cruces Sun-News, who cite Albuquerque Journal,
Anderson canceled a $1.3 million contract with the Albuquerque-based
firm Procurement Solutions. The job in question is the overseeing of the
facility's development, and Anderson would rather like to see state
employees doing it.
April 11, 2011 - Virgin Galactic is
looking to hire pilot-astronauts for Spaceport America. You can apply at
their website. Closing date is April 30.
February 28, 2011 - Martinez found her
new executive director in Christine M. Anderson, age 64, former civilian
Air Force official, who retired January 2008 and hence got plenty of
rest to appear spunky at her new desk.
New Spaceport Director
February 9, 2011 - Martinez appointed
the new board. And the winners are: Benjamin Woods, Jerry Stagner (Woods
and Stagner were also on the previous board) Richard Holdridge (chair)
David Buchholtz, Scott Krahling, Irvin Diamond, and Sid Gutierrez.
January 29, 2011 - Las Cruces
Martinez acknowledged that
Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson called her to
request that former spaceport Executive Director Rick Homans be
retained, but said she needed to make a change, in part because
her team has not been able to conduct a thorough review of
spaceport operations. She removed both Homans and the spaceport
board, and has yet to name replacements.
"What we want to do is get a hold of the contract (with Virgin
Galactic) and make sure we know what the long-term commitment is
financially," she said. "They have not been very willing to
share the very hard data of what is the state's commitment
Martinez reiterated her support for the spaceport project, and
said there would be a sense of urgency in filling the positions.
"We want to go forward, but we want to have a clear
understanding of what we're going forward with," she said.
Governor Susana Martinez on the Roll
January 14, 2011 - Things are
happening. Martinez also fired the spaceport commission's board of
directors. ABQ Journal confirms and is equally stunned: "In her
first two weeks in office, a wary new governor sacked both the Spaceport
Authority's board and its executive director."
Trusty Las Cruces Sun News
reports Martinez' official statement: "There's no question that the
spaceport can bring jobs to New Mexico, but long-term success will
require the right leadership. Given its significant costs, I believe
that developing the spaceport to its full potential requires more robust
private investment and new leadership to make necessary adjustments."
January 5, 2011 - Spaceport director
Rick Homans says he was given the choice to either resign or to get
fired. He resigned today, effective end of January 7, 2011. Who would
put Rick in this awkward position? Governor Susana Martinez and her
team. They say there are reasons.
October 22, 2010 - Spaceport runway was
dedicated. Its official name is Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway.
Attending amongst others were Bill Richardson, Richard Branson, and
around 30 future astronauts. Together, they watched WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo
fly by and land.
October 10, 2010 - Virgin Galactic
completes first piloted free flight of SpaceShipTwo, aka VSS Enterprise.
The two pilots were Pete Siebold (pilot) and Mike Alsbury (co-pilot).
September 30, 2010 - The Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new grant program with funding
for projects that develop space transportation infrastructure. For the
New Mexico Spaceport Authority, this means $43,000 for an Automated
Weather Observing System.
July 27, 2010 - Gov. Bill Richardson
made Benjamin E. Woods, administrator at NM State University, chairman
of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority's board of directors. Furthermore,
Richardson appointed Patrick H. Beckett, archaeologist and Las Cruces
bookstore owner, to the board.
June 2010 - Rick Homans is new
April 16, 2010 - Spaceport director
Steve Landeene quit his job. He will stick around until May 14 and then
check himself into a spa for the next three decades. Steve says the
stress and time commitment became unbearable and he wants his life back,
bless his heart.
May 2, 2009 - UP Aerospace launched
another mini-rocket into space, or attempted to anyways. Something
malfunctioned and the payload was ejected before the rocket could reach the desired height,
which it didn't. The payload consisted of a portion of the cremated
remains of 16 individuals and some students' experiments.
April 25, 2009 - Formula One legend
Niki Lauda has purchased his space ticket for a ride on the Virgin
Galactic spaceship, and so has Rubens Barrichello. But Lauda aims higher
and says he would also like to fly the spaceship. Of course we think
"space race" and are itching to place our bets.
April 7 - 16, 2009 - People wonder
about the job opportunities at Spaceport America and
rightly so. Info meetings regarding
potential jobs for contractors, businesses, organizations, and
individuals had been scheduled in various NM cities. The events were hosted by Gerald Martin Construction
Management of Albuquerque, which is the company selected to manage the
construction of Spaceport America.
December 31, 2008 - Getting another
formality on its way: Virgin Galactic and the State of New Mexico sign a
20 year lease agreement.
December 21, 2008 - According to Virgin
Galactic, Eve, photo below, performed a flawless maiden flight.
October 2, 2008 - Space.com reports
that Virgin Galactic rejects a million-dollar offer to film a sex video
in space, gravity free. Too much controversial press too soon. Give it a
couple more years
and we're all gonna be good and ready for some tasteful space porn.
Virgin Galactic. Getit?
September 18, 2008 -
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority and the New Mexico Department of
Transportation have begun building the road that will connect to
Spaceport America. The project began today and will improve County Road
AO13 from Engle, south to the intersection of AO13 and AO39, which is
the entrance to Spaceport America.
July 28, 2008 - Virgin Galactic
introduces their mothership aircraft. That's the one that will carry the spaceship including passengers to launch altitude. Wingspan: 140 feet.
The craft is named after Branson's
mother. Keeping this in mind combined with the fact that the design of
the spaceport might or might not resemble a gigantic vagina, it appears that the further
man seeks to explore space the more he is drawn to celebrate his
origins. Viva fecundity. Prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada, by the way.
July 9, 2008 - The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) launches
their website. Check it out at
July 3, 2008 - Gov. Bill Richardson has appointed Daniela Glick
chairwoman for the Spaceport Authority.
April 15, 2008 - Another non-binding
agreement was announced this morning with aerospace giant Lockheed
Martin, the third such agreement in the weeks leading up to a crucial
tax referendum Tuesday in Sierra County. The development agreement is a
precursor to a lease but is not an actual lease. The agreement would
commit the British firm to a 20-year lease at the spaceport but does not
include any financial terms of the deal. Lockheed - the world's largest
aerospace company, with $42 billion in revenue - has already tested some
new launch technologies at the Spaceport through subcontracts with
Colorado-based UP Aerospace.
April 10, 2008 - Microgravity
Enterprises Inc, based in Albuquerque NM, also signed a memorandum.
April 9, 2008 - UP Aerospace signs a
10-year memorandum of understanding to continue using the site. UP
Aerospace president Jerry Larson said no contract is involved but the
agreement reaffirms the company's plans. "It's more of a gentlemen's
agreement, a handshake deal to show we intend to get this done," Larson
April 7, 2008 - The New Mexico
Spaceport Authority gave Executive Director
Steve Landeene the authority to sign an agreement between the state and Spaceport America anchor tenant Virgin
Galactic. The agreement commits the British firm to a 20-year lease to
host its space tourism operations at the spaceport.
December 6, 2007 - The new
executive director for Spaceport America is Steven Landeene, who will have
his first day at his desk on January 7, 2008. Steve's profile: Last job as
the director of strategy and planning for sales and marketing of Landmark
Aviation in Phoenix. Bachelor's from the University of Illinois, master's
from Arizona State University.
September 4, 2007
architects have been busy and presented the new Spaceport America
August 1, 2007 - A team of U.S. and
British architects has been selected to design a terminal and hangar for
the states fledgling spaceport in Southern New Mexico. Engineering and
design firm URS Corp. and British architectural firm Foster + Partners
submitted the winning design.
July 26, 2007 - Mojave, California:
There has been a huge explosion at Virgin Galactic's rocket
garage. Associated Press reports three fatalities. The Mojave Air and Space Port is run by Scaled Composites, the
company that develops spacecrafts for Virgin Galactic.
July 11, 2007 - That's right. Homan
signed up with a rubber recycling company that will have its headquarter
in Albuquerque and its factory in Gallup. By the way, actor Mel Gibson is
one of its investors. Who's gonna be the new exec of the NM Spaceport
Authority? We wonder.
July 4, 2007 - We picked up on a vibe
that Rick Homans quit his job. Weird things are happening.
June 6, 2007 - Will the spaceport
endanger historic landmarks? New Mexicans get panicky. Rick Homans answers
by putting the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail on
the endangered list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Or he
rather announced today that the National Trust will do so next week.
June 4, 2007 - Las Cruces City Council
unanimously approves of selling 45 acres at the West Mesa Industrial Park
to Grabois Development, a limited liability company based in Miami, for
The owner, Mr Adam Grabois, plans to sell and lease space in speculative
buildings in the industrial park. Constructions will commence this fall.
Grabois previously made a healthy buck in real estate in Manhattan and
May 2, 2007 - Gov. Bill Richardson has appointed Rick Homans
executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the body that
manages Spaceport America. Homans will leave his post as state secretary
of economic development immediately to oversee construction of the
VIRGIN GALACTIC AND NASA
February 21, 2007 - NASA officials signed a memorandum of understanding
Tuesday with Virgin Galactic, LLC, to explore the
potential for collaborations on the development of space suits, heat
shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles
capable of traveling five or more times the speed of sound.
THE SPACEPORT AND THE
December 15, 2008 - The FAA gave their thumbs up! Spaceport America got
the FAA's license plus the go-ahead from the environmental impact study.
Steve Landeene is a happy camper and ready to strike. "We are on track
to begin construction in the first quarter of 2009, and have our
facility completed as quickly as possible."
Now wait just one minizzle. How come
they already shot stuff into space from there? Was it illegal because it
was without a FAA license? Not at all. Those flights were allowed on a
launch-by-launch basis. Now this here is the real deal. Plus, the State
promised to help out with some sweet funding for the construction site
IF a FAA license could be seen pinned on the wall.
By the way, according to msnbc, the
following states already have a FAA license for commercial spaceports:
Alaska (Kodiak), California (Mojave and a commercial launch site at
Vandenberg Air Force Base), Florida (Spaceport Florida at Cape
Canaveral), Texas (privately operated by Blue Origin near Van Horn),
Oklahoma (Burns Flat) and Virginia (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport).
July 31, 2008 - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compiled a
study regarding the environmental impact of the spaceport. It concludes
that there will be little to no impact on the area. If you beg to
differ, you can. FAA conducts hearings: August 5 - Alamogordo City Hall,
August 6: Truth or Consequences Civic Center, August 7: Doņa Ana County
Other commercial spaceports in the US are located at Oklahoma, Florida,
Virginia, Alaska, and two spaceports in California. Spaceport
America in New Mexico will be the first private spaceport in the
November 23, 2009 - Spaceports all
across the world are ready to unite and they call themselves the CSF.
And yes, there's a website... check out the
Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
April 25, 2009 - Another spaceport
location is going to be decided upon shortly. The Guardian (UK) quotes
Branson as follows. "We are in discussions with Bahrain, with Qatar, Abu
Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia and over the next two months we will
settle on one of those five countries."