The World’s First Purpose Build Commercial Spaceport
In 2007, state lawmakers in Doña Ana and Sierra counties approved public funding of about $220 million to facilitate the construction of Spaceport America as Virgin Galactic signed a 20-year lease agreement with the promise that flying paying customers into space from southern New Mexico would provide thousands of new jobs in the tech and tourism sectors. While officials were positive that a new commercial space economy would transform southern New Mexico and help the state become less dependent on the oil and gas industry, the investment in Spaceport America is a long way from creating the 5,000 new jobs promised by the-then Gov. Bill Richardson.
Spaceport America has a few teething challenges to overcome. For starters, the commercial space industry is becoming increasingly popular and competitive, which has seen Florida and Virginia among states that are now looking to build partnerships with space companies. Even though the spaceport is prompting tourism maybe even created a few jobs for people in southern New Mexico the state does require a professional study to give the public and its officials a better sense of the economic activity this project is generating.
According to optimistic expert opinion, Spaceport America will be a key port and transportation hub for access to space and for cargo and passengers traveling to various points around the planet. So far, it has had a tangible impact on tourism consequently, hotels and businesses in the area benefit too.
Being Richard Branson’s most ambitious business venture to date, which is the world’s first luxury Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico and the hub for Virgin’s consumer spaceflights is in full operation. It boasts of a runway stretching nearly two miles long, a futuristic styled terminal hanger, a dome-shaped space operations center, and a preparation area for wealthy travelers to get ready and blast into orbit.
Virgin Galactic will be offering suborbital flights to an altitude of at least 50 miles (80.5 kilometers), where passengers will see a vast swath of the Earth far below and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the spacecraft glides to a landing, via Aerospace News
It’s good news for people who are willing to spend a whopping $250,000 for a quick trip into suborbital space in 2019. Following two successful test missions of its rocket-powered space plane, Sir Richard Branson and company has announced that he is moving ahead with the deal with New Mexico to move its commercial spaceflight and 100 workers to Spaceport America this summer. Virgin Galactic has only one competitor for spaceflights, a space company called Blue Origin owned by Jeff Bezos who even though hasn’t specified whether he intends to begin launching paying customers, but has so far had several successful un-crewed flights.
Even though tickets for commercial space travel won’t come cheap at first but the stratospheric cost of space tourism will become affordable and even beginning to fall into place, thanks to the rise of SpaceX and other upcoming private spaceflight companies. Depending on your finances and destination be prepared to pay up to tens of millions of dollars but for now about 650 people with $250,000 tickets for the suborbital flights, Virgin Galactic will take them to the upper atmosphere and outer space.
Virgin Galactic has had growing pains which included the crash of VSS Enterprise in October of 2014 where the co-pilot was killed and the pilot seriously injured. In 2018 all ticket sales for flights were canceled but they expect ticket sales to resume in the near future. Ticket costs are expected to be higher than the original $250,000 of which nearly 8,000 people have expressed interest by signing up online.
Although there have been setbacks these are exciting times with a bright future ahead for the Las Cruces and Dona Ana County area. What are your thoughts on the Spaceport America and what it’s future is for Las Cruces and southern New Mexico? Are you ready to book your flight into space?
Featured Photo Credits: By Land Rover MENA – Land Rover Discovery Sport | Behind the Scenes, CC BY 2.0