Virgin Galactic may be spending over USD$300 million on a commercial space vehicle, but only now has it actually got a place to land. Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, broke ground in New Mexico on June 19th. The 110,000 square foot facility, designed by Foster and Partners, will cost around $200m and is expected to host the first commercial space flight by 2011.
Spaceport America will be the earth base for Virgin Galactic, which is working to make everyday space flight a commercial reality – at a ticket price of USD$200,000 mind you. The Spaceport, therefore, works on a massive scale. The runway is 10000 feet long and 200 feet wide. The public viewing gallery is 4000 square feet. And the total site, including buildings, runways and aprons, occupies 670,000 square feet.
Designed by the team behind the innovative Beijing and Hong Kong airports, the Spaceport has an appropriately futuristic look, but its most significant achievement is environmental. Largely buried in the desert sand, the space terminal uses earth tubes for cooling (reducing costs by 50-70%), solar energy for power and has its own wastewater recycling plant.
Spaceport America will be completed in about 18 months, and the first tourist space flight could take off shortly thereafter.