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Branson inaugurates Spaceport America in New Mexico

Branson inaugurates Spaceport America in New Mexico

Entrepreneur Richard Branson has inaugurated the $200 million, Norman Foster designed Spaceport America as Virgin Galactic inches closer to the stars.

Some 800 guests were on hand to witness a fly-past from WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo as part of a spectacular opening ceremony.

“Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic,” said Branson.

“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.

Branson and his children, Sam and Holly, who will be the first commercial passengers on SpaceShipTwo, brought the event to a spectacular conclusion by officially naming the development ‘Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space’.

A combined terminal and hangar facility, the spaceport will support up to two WhiteKnightTwo and five SpaceShipTwo vehicles.

In addition, it will house all of the company’s astronaut preparation and celebration facilities, a mission control center, and a friends and family area.

There is also space committed to public access via the planned New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s Visitor Experience. 

The 120,000 square-foot building, which meets LEED Gold standards for environmental quality, was designed by world-renowned United Kingdom-based Foster + Partners, along with URS Corporation and local New Mexico architects SMPC.

The trio won an international competition in 2007 to build the first private spaceport in the world. 

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez participated in the dedication ceremony with United States congressman Steve Pearce, representing New Mexico’s 2nd District.

“New Mexico has a long tradition of pioneering innovation in aerospace and related technologies,” said Martinez.

“We already possess an impressive array of facilities and expertise in advanced technologies.

In addition, the company is taking steps to expand its mission beyond commercial space tourism.

The company announced earlier it had been awarded a contract by the NASA-operated Flight Opportunity Program for research flights to a potential value of $4.5 million.

During the ceremony, it was announced new flight reservations have been made by research and education institutions to support research initiatives and inspire students.

Present for the dedication ceremony were over 150 Virgin Galactic customers from 21 countries who have already made deposits to fly to space.

A total of over 450 future astronauts worldwide have signed on to join Virgin Galactic for a voyage into space.