'Spaceport America' Unveiled

Virgin Galactic plans to launch thousands of tourists from New Mexico facility
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 16, 2019 12:21 AM CDT
'Spaceport America' Unveiled
Virgin Galactic ground crew guide the company's carrier plane into the hangar at Spaceport America following a test flight over the desert near Upham, New Mexico, on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Spaceport America is no longer just a shiny shell of hope that space tourism would one day launch from a remote spot in the New Mexico desert. The once-empty hangar that anchors the taxpayer-financed launch and landing facility has been transformed into a custom-tailored headquarters where Virgin Galactic will run its commercial flight operations. The interior spaces unveiled Thursday aim to connect paying customers with every aspect of the operation, providing views of the hangar and the space vehicles as well as the banks of monitors inside mission control, the AP reports. Two levels within the spaceport include mission control, a preparation area for pilots, and a lounge for customers and their friends and families. There's also space behind two massive sliding doors to accommodate two of Virgin Galactic's carrier planes and a fleet of six-passenger rocket ships.

Company officials say the space is meant to create "an unparalleled experience" as customers prepare for what Virgin Galactic describes as the journey of a lifetime. Just how soon customers will file into the spaceport for the first commercial flights to space has yet to be determined, but Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides says that once the test flights are complete, commercial operations can begin. He envisions a fundamental shift in humanity's relationship with space, noting that fewer than 600 people ever have ventured beyond the Earth's atmosphere. "We're going to be able to send way more than that to space from this facility here," he says. "In another 15 years, I really hope that we've had thousands of people go." About 600 people have reserved a seat, according to the company, at a cost of $250,000 a ticket.

(More Virgin Galactic stories.)

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