Jan 13 2013

A Visit to Spaceport America

What a great way to start the New Year with a peek at the future in space at Spaceport America just north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA.

The Spaceport bills itself as: The world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport, designed to enable affordable, efficient and effective space access and unlock the potential of space for everyone.
Click
(All images by Bruce Cordell on 1/6/2013.)

Designed, built, and operated by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the $200+M Spaceport is home to the world’s first commercial passenger spaceline company, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The word is that the first group — including Branson himself — of the several hundred aspiring future private astronauts who’ve booked their reservation with Virgin Galactic will be launched into suborbital space by the end of 2013.

Spaceport America provides some of the most spectacular evidence that we are indeed just around the corner from the next transformational, 1960s-style Maslow Window, expected by mid-decade.

This view to the east from the security station shows the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building — a 120,000 sq ft combined hangar and terminal — with the San Andres Mountains in the distance. White Sands National Monument and the Space History Museum in Alamogordo are to the southeast over this range.
Click

Just north of the Gateway building is the Spaceport Operations Center dome.
Click

We’ve pulled up to the front door and are looking north.
Click

On the second floor of the Ops Center the “Eye” window allows us to survey all activities on the runway officially known as the “Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway,” visible to the east.
Click

Here we look south to the Gateway building from inside the Ops Center (through the glass).
Click

In this north view we’re experiencing breathtaking (!) speeds along the 10,000 foot runway. It’s currently being lengthened by about 2000 feet (too late for us!).
Click

After Branson and his guests and crew land following their first trip into space, they’ll taxi back to the Gateway much like this (looking west).
Click

This close-up of the Gateway building’s east side reveals the third-floor balcony where passengers and guests will gather to contemplate how life-altering it is to become a private astronaut and venture 100 km above the Earth!
Click

At the end of our Spaceport America tour in front of the Gateway, we experienced a “reflective” moment ourselves (look closely below) …
Click
… and realized that Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America have the potential to not only trigger a quantum leap in commercial spaceflight all over the world, but to transform the state of New Mexico into a new, global center for space-related informal education and tourism.

With New Mexico’s impressive space-related assets and history (e.g., Alamogordo Space Museum, White Sands, Holloman AFB, NASA and NMSU facilities, VLA), expected hordes of tourists drawn to the Spaceport for a glimpse of the future, and world-class investors taking notice (e.g., Ted Turner’s major ranch nearby) — isn’t it possible we could see the birth of a new Disney-style space-related theme park in southern New Mexico to complement the anticipated success of Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America, and to celebrate our expansion into the new international Space Age?

Time will tell.

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply