The 10,219m² scheme is the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport in New Mexico. Phase one of the spaceport, which will be the hub for consumer spaceflights, is now 90 per cent complete. It already has a runway stretching to nearly two miles, a futuristic styled terminal hanger, and a dome-shaped Space Operations Centre.
Spaceport America tours are treating ticket-holding visitors to up-close-and-personal encounters with the sprawling complex, located adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. Ongoing work continues to flesh out both on- and off-site welcome centers, which are expected to be complete next year.
The company has extended invitations to Virgin Galactic and other tenants, including SpaceX . More than 450 future astronauts around the world have already signed on to join Virgin Galactic ‘for a voyage into space. Ticketholders can now take tours of the facility, which is expected to be completed next year. A glazed facade on to the runway establishes a platform within the terminal building for coveted views out to arriving and departing spacecraft. A visitor centre with an educational focus will also be available. Visitors and astronauts enter the building via a deep channel cut into the landscape.
Organised into a highly efficient and rational plan, Spaceport has been designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft. There is also a careful balance between accessibility and privacy. Spread over 18,000 acres, the 3.7km (12,000ft) runway is now long enough to satisfy the projected needs of the port’s tenant – Virgin Galactic venture. The site is capable of providing for vertical and horizontal takeoff space launch vehicles, as well as pre and post flight activities. The astronauts’ areas and visitor spaces are fully integrated with the rest of the building, while the more sensitive zones – such as the control room – are visible, but have limited access.
The retaining walls form an exhibition space that documents a history of space exploration alongside the story of the region and its settlers. The strong linear axis of the channel continues into the building on a galleried level to the super hangar – which houses the spacecraft and the simulation room – through to the terminal building.
“We’ve never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way.
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.”
The spaceport signed a three-year agreement with SpaceX to lease land and facilities at Spaceport America, where the company will conduct flight testing for its reusable rocket program, dubbed Grasshopper. That vertical takeoff and landing project aims to enable a multi-legged booster to return to the launch pad intact, rather than being wastefully tossed away.
Anderson said she initiated the conversation with SpaceX to bring Grasshopper flight testing to Spaceport America. “We started talking, and they came out and it seemed like a great fit. We’re very excited to have them here,” she told SPACE.com.
Anderson said that the three-year agreement with SpaceX has some extra options. “You know how flight testing is,” she said. “We were already in the process of expanding our vertical launch area. So timing-wise, it worked out really well.”
The local community is very happy to have Spaceport America here,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA). “It’s already generated about 1,100 jobs in the state of New Mexico.”