British millionaire and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is one step closer to his dream of providing commercial flights into space with the construction of a spaceport in Upham, New Mexico. What is certainly the product of the commercialization of the space industry, Spaceport America is destined to become the “flagship” of other spaceports throughout the world. In fact a similar spaceport project is already underway in Singapore.
Ticket pre-sales for the pricey space flights have already reached over $45 million dollars. Each ticket, costing approximately $200,000 will take you on a sub orbital flight on the VSS Enterprise. Boasting only 6 seats, it is sure to be an adventure to brag about.
The Taxpayer funded, $198 million spaceport will take tourists on short hops into space at first, but plans are already underway for more extended flights that Branson hopes will one day include orbit flights and stays in a space hotel.
Fortunately, the design allows for “green technology” by incorporating a core design implementing renewable energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, southern New Mexico has the second highest potential for solar power in the nation. The videos at the bottom of the page contain more information on some of the methods being incorporated into planning.
In addition, cooling methods such as buried air pipes will assist traditional methods. According to the Spaceport America site, ” By powering the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, with clean, abundant solar energy, the world will look to New Mexico as the leader in implementing renewable energy solutions!”
Weekly flights are set to begin in approximately April, 2012. Also on the agenda for the new spaceport are several companies who will be specializing in research and in transporting payload to space.
According to Executive Director Steve Landeene of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA), “The groundbreaking for Spaceport America is the beginning of a historic new chapter in New Mexico’s long legacy of space and cutting-edge technology. From the pioneering rocketry work of Robert J. Goddard in New Mexico in 1930, the beginnings of America’s space program in the 1940’s and 50’s to the ongoing NASA programs at White Sands Missile Range and now to Spaceport America, the Gateway to the Future.”
This image shows the runway, along with the terminal (seen above the runway)
This is a cross section image of the foundation work and surfacing material being applied to the runway.
Here is a great interview with Spaceport America Executive Director Steve Landeene. Except for the inane text chat scrolling at the bottom, it is a good interview.