|This article is outdated. (November 2012)|
|Spaceport America terminal hangar facility as of October 2010|
|IATA: none – ICAO: none – FAA LID: 90NM|
|Airport type||Private Commercial Spaceport|
|Owner/Operator||New Mexico Spaceport Authority|
|Location||Sierra County, New Mexico|
|Hub for||Virgin Galactic,
|Elevation AMSL||4,595 ft / 1,401 m|
Spaceport America (formerly the Southwest Regional Spaceport) is a spaceport located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, United States just west of the White Sands Missile Range. It lies 179 miles (288 km) south of Albuquerque, 89 miles (143 km) north of El Paso, 45 miles (72 km) north of Las Cruces, and 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Truth or Consequences. Spaceport America was officially declared open on October 18, 2011.
|This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: WP:PROSELINE. (November 2012)|
The spaceport's initial concept was proposed by Stanford University engineering lecturer and tech startup advisor Dr. Burton Lee in 1990. He wrote the initial business and strategic plans, secured US$1.4 million in seed funding via congressional earmarks with the help of Senator Pete Domenici, and worked with the New Mexico State University Physical Science Laboratory (PSL) to develop local support for the spaceport concept.
In 1992, the Southwest Space Task Force was formed to advance the New Mexico space industry's commercial infrastructure and activity. After several years of study, they focused on a 27-square-mile (70 km2) plot of state-owned land, 45 miles (72 km) north of Las Cruces, as a location for the spaceport.
In 2003, the task force petitioned new Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Rick Homans who then picked up the torch. Homans presented the idea to state Governor Richardson and negotiated with the X Prize Foundation to locate the X Prize Cup in New Mexico. Following an announcement by Governor Richardson and Sir Richard Branson's that the new Virgin Galactic would make New Mexico its world headquarters, the state legislature enacted laws providing for the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport in 2006. The spaceport was branded Spaceport America.
Construction of the first temporary launch facility at the spaceport site began on 4 April 2006. Early operations of the spaceport utilized this temporary infrastructure, some of it borrowed from neighboring White Sands Missile Range.
In early 2007, red tape was still in the process of being cleared and the spaceport itself was still little more than "a 100-foot (30 m) by 25-foot (7.6 m) concrete slab." That slab would eventually be part of the launch facility for the spaceport's first tenant UP Aerospace. On April 3, voters in neighboring Doña Ana County approved a spaceport tax, that would go into effect upon final approval from the Spaceport America host county Sierra County.
The first images of the then planned spaceport's Hangar Terminal Facility (HTF) were released in early September 2007.
In April 2008, the voters in Sierra County approved the plan, releasing over US$40 million in funding for the spaceport. Voters in the third county of Otero, however, rejected the spaceport tax during November general elections. In spite of this, Spaceport America had what it needed to move forward and great headway towards its completion began.
In December 2008, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority received its launch license for vertical and horizontal launch in from the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Shortly thereafter, Virgin Galactic signed a 20-year (240-month) lease as the anchor tenant, agreeing to pay US$1 million per year for the first five years in addition to payments on a tiered scale based on the number of launches the company makes.
In December, Gerald Martin Construction Management, from Albuquerque, was chosen to oversee construction. As of April 2009[update], the first of 13 bid packages for the spaceport was expected to be publicly released later that month and all 13 bid packages were scheduled to be released by June 2009. "The goal is to have [construction] completed in 17 months, by December 2010."
By February 2010, the in mid-construction budgetary estimate for completion was $198 million.
By October 2010, with the runway complete and the terminal building under active construction, the budgetary estimate for completion increased to $212 million. Approximately two-thirds of that were provided by the state of New Mexico and the remainder from "construction bonds backed by a tax approved by voters in Doña Ana and Sierra counties."
Increased private funding
With the beginning of the administration of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez in 2011, the state government took a new approach to increase private investment to complete the spaceport project. In order to oversee the new effort, Governor Martinez appointed an entirely new board of directors for the Spaceport Authority and removed Executive Director Rick Homans.
The western zone of the Facility (25,597 sq ft.) houses support and administrative facilities for Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. The central zone contains the double-height hangar (47,000 sq ft.) to store White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo crafts. The eastern zone (29,419 sq ft.) encompasses the principal operational training area, departure lounge, spacesuit dressing rooms, and celebration areas.
The onsite restaurant and mission control room have a direct east views across the apron, runway and landscape beyond.
The spaceport was built with environmental sustainability in mind. Designed to meet the requirements for LEED Gold Certification, it incorporates "Earth Tubes" to cool the building, solar thermal panels, underfloor radiant cooling and heating, and natural ventilation.
A visitor center is planned in downtown Truth Or Consequences (the closest town) to provide shuttle bus services to the Spaceport. However, due to delays in spaceport operations and reduction in spaceport authority revenues, the plans were considerably scaled back in January 2014. Rather than the planned US$20 million facilities, the revised plan has only a US$7.5 million capital budget. Rather than the "planned $13 million visitor center at the spaceport [there will be a] $1.5 million hangar" and the Truth or Consequences visitor center budget request was cut to US$6 million from the original US$7 million.
Commercial spaceflight plans include:
|SpaceX||suborbital reusable prototype flights|
|Virgin Galactic||suborbital passenger flights|
As Spaceport America's anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic is to be given primary access to the 10,000-foot-long (3,000 m) runway, from which it will operate 21⁄2 hour commercial suborbital trips. As of February 2011[update], Virgin Galactic has accepted over 400 reservations and collected $50 million in deposits. The company currently expects its "pioneer spaceflight" will launch from Spaceport America in 2014.
Virgin Galactic's suborbital ship, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), is carried by its mother-craft White Knight Two (WK2) to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,000 m) before being released on a suborbital trajectory under its own rocket power. Space Ship Two's launches will apex 70 miles (110 km) from the Earth's surface at more than 2,000 mph (3,200 km/h). Customers will take part in 3 days pre-flight preparation, bonding, and training onsite at the spaceport.
X Prize Foundation
In May 2013, SpaceX announced that they had signed a three-year lease for land and facilities at Spaceport America in order to support high-altitude, high-velocity flight testing of the Grasshopper v1.1 reusable launch vehicle (RLV), the second-generation of the SpaceX experimental vertical takeoff, vertical landing suborbital technology-demonstrator. SpaceX is using Grasshopper as one-element of a multi-element program to develop reusable boosters and second stages. The testing is expected to start in New Mexico only after low-altitude initial flight tests of the Grasshopper v1.1—also known as Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) development vehicle—are accomplished in Texas at the SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility.
Prior to May 2013, SpaceX had been planning to do these high-altitude tests at US Government's New Mexico high-altitude flight test facility—White Sands Missile Range—which is located on land adjacent and to the east of Spaceport America.
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- "Martinez pushes private funds for spaceport". Cibola Beacon. 2011-02-14. Retrieved 2011-02-16. "Martinez said ... "New Mexico's taxpayers have made a significant investment in the Spaceport project. It's time to see the project through to completion by bringing in private funding.""
- "Letter of Resignation". ispcs.com. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
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- "Spaceport America Construction Status". Retrieved 2010-05-30.
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- Alba Soular, Diana (2012-01-16). "Virgin Galactic's Butler builds NM operation". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved 2012-01-14. ""In [the Las Cruces] office, we're likely to have about 20 people. And at the spaceport - it's hard to be precise at this point - but in the region of 150 direct jobs. Of course, the contractors we'll take on is a much bigger number.""
- "Private Spaceflight: Shifting into Fast Forward". space.com. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- Lindsey, Clark (2013-05-07). "SpaceX to test Grasshopper reusable booster at Spaceport America in NM". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2013-05-07. (subscription required (. ))
- "Grasshopper flies to its highest height to date". Social media information release. SpaceX. 12 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013. "WATCH: Grasshopper flies to its highest height to date - 744 m (2441 ft) into the Texas sky. http://youtu.be/9ZDkItO-0a4 This was the last scheduled test for the Grasshopper rig; next up will be low altitude tests of the Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) development vehicle in Texas followed by high altitude testing in New Mexico."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spaceport America.|
- Official website
- Aerial view of Spaceport America
- Info @ Encyclopedia Astronautica
- National Geographic Megastructures episode on Spaceport America, 45 minutes duration.
- Spaceport news archive from Las Cruces Sun-News
- "Eat My Contrails, Branson!" from SEED magazine