November 18, 2010

World’s First Commercial Spaceport Nearing Completion

Construction on the world's first commercial passenger space terminal is expected to be completed sometime next year, with flights set to begin launching within 18 months, according to a Wednesday evening article by Dennis J. Carroll of Reuters.

Spaceport America, as it has been dubbed, will be located near the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. According to Carroll, a two-mile long runway was completed at the facility in October, and an air-fire rescue center and an over 100,000 square-foot hangar are nearing completion. The primary tenant of the nearly $200 million facility is Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

"Spaceport America is all about creating new jobs and new opportunities in New Mexico," Rick Homans, the executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said in a statement, according to Carroll. As such, the organization has started soliciting bids from local businesses interested in running day to day operations at the facility, which according to Homans signifies "a critical milestone for the project."

According to the official Spaceport America website, the project was initiated by a group known as the Southwest Space Task Force in the early 1990s. They first pitched the project to Homans in 2003, shortly after he took office as New Mexico's Economic Development Cabinet Secretary. Ground was broken on the project in June 2009, and construction on the runway began that August.

Following the October 2010 dedication ceremony of the Spaceport America runway, Branson said, "I for one can't wait for the grand opening--today has brought it one step closer to reality for me"¦ To be here in New Mexico to witness this historic moment is the perfect end to a great month."

"With the recent signing of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 by President Obama, it is clear that our nation's future space efforts will be working even more closely than with the growing commercial space transportation industry," added Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, according to a Spaceport America press release. "Innovative approaches that foster this new commercial industry will bring more competition and opportunities that will lower the costs of spaceflight and payload services for America's aerospace programs, and introduce new human space transportation systems."


Image Caption: Terminal Hangar Concept, Spaceport America. Credit: Spaceport America Conceptual Images URS/Foster + Partners


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