October 18, 2011
Virgin Galactic Dedicates Commercial Spaceport
Virgin Galactic and U.S. officials dedicated the world's first built-from-scratch commercial spaceport on Monday.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, rappelled from a balcony, shook up a bottle of champagne and christened the spaceport during the event.“Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic,” Branson said during the ceremony. “We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century."
Virgin Galactic will have its first commercial space tourism venture from Spaceport America in a remote patch of desert in southern New Mexico.
Governor Susana Martinez took a seat at the ceremony, along with astronaut Buzz Aldrin and future space-travelers.
"New Mexico has a long tradition of pioneering innovation in aerospace and related technologies,” Governor Martinez said in a statement. “We already possess an impressive array of facilities and expertise in advanced technologies. Spaceport America and the opening of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space significantly deepen those capabilities and strengthen our global
position as a powerhouse supporter of the space industry.
Branson said he hopes to get enough test flights done by the end of 2012 to start commercial suborbital flights from spaceport.
Over 450 people have purchased tickets to fly with the space company, and about 150 were present at the ceremony.
The $209 million spaceport will be a launch station for people and payloads on the rocket ships being developed for Virgin Galactic.
Officials said the completion of the spaceport marks another major milestone that helps to bring the dream of space tourism closer to reality.
Tourist can grab a ride on Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo for $200,000 and the 2 1/2-hour flight includes about five minutes of weightlessness and plenty of views of Earth.
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