Spaceport America

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Spaceport America
Terminal Hangar Facility under construction at Spaceport America.jpg
Spaceport America terminal hangar facility as of October 2010
IATA: noneICAO: noneFAA LID: 90NM
Summary
Airport type Private Commercial Spaceport
Owner/Operator New Mexico Spaceport Authority
Location Sierra County, New Mexico
Hub for Virgin Galactic,
UP Aerospace,
Payload Specialties
Elevation AMSL 4,595 ft / 1,401 m
Coordinates 32°59′25″N 106°58′11″W / 32.99028°N 106.96972°W / 32.99028; -106.96972Coordinates: 32°59′25″N 106°58′11″W / 32.99028°N 106.96972°W / 32.99028; -106.96972
Website www.spaceportamerica.com
Map
Spaceport America is located in New Mexico
Spaceport America
Spaceport America
Location within New Mexico
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
16/34 10,000 3,048 Concrete

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.[1]

The site has been described as "the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport".[2][3][4]

Tenants of the spaceport include Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, UP Aerospace, and Armadillo Aerospace.

History[edit]

Spaceport America is the result of over two decades of efforts to increase the commercial accessibility of spaceflight, come to fruition in southern New Mexico.

Inception[edit]

Map of Spaceport America within the originally envisioned spaceport tax district, including Doña Ana, Luna, Otero, and Sierra Counties.

The spaceport's initial concept was proposed by Stanford University engineering lecturer and tech startup advisor Dr. Burton Lee in 1990.[5] 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.[citation needed]

In 1992, the Southwest Space Task Force was formed to advance the New Mexico space industry's commercial infrastructure and activity.[6][7] 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.[2][7] The spaceport was branded Spaceport America.

Construction[edit]

The "Virgin Galactic Gateway To Space" in October 2010.
Concrete plant on site for paving of the runway.
The runway under construction, March 2010.

Construction of the first temporary launch facility at the spaceport site began on 4 April 2006.[8] Early operations of the spaceport utilized this temporary infrastructure, some of it borrowed from neighboring White Sands Missile Range.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

The first images of the then planned spaceport's Hangar Terminal Facility (HTF) were released in early September 2007.[12]

In April 2008, the voters in Sierra County approved the plan, releasing over US$40 million in funding for the spaceport.[13] 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.[14][15][16]

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.[17][18] 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.[15][19][20][21]

In December, Gerald Martin Construction Management, from Albuquerque, was chosen to oversee construction.[22][23] As of April 2009, 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."[24]

The ground-breaking ceremony took place 19 June 2009 and paid tours of the facilities began in December of the same year.[25][26]

By February 2010, the in mid-construction budgetary estimate for completion was $198 million.[27]

On October 22, a ceremonial flypass of Spaceport America was made by SpaceShipTwo to celebrate the completion of the runway.[28]

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."[29]

As of August 2012, Spaceport America is substantially complete and the cost of the entire project was $209 million.[30]

Increased private funding[edit]

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[31] and removed Executive Director Rick Homans.[32]

Facility[edit]

The site area nets approximately 670,000 sq ft (62,000 m2), with the terminal & hangar facility grossing an area of 110,152 sq ft (10,233.5 m2).[33]

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.[33]

The onsite restaurant and mission control room have a direct east views across the apron, runway and landscape beyond.[33]

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.[30][33]

A visitor center is planned in downtown Truth Or Consequences (the closest town) to provide shuttle bus services to the Spaceport.[34] 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.[35]

Commercial spaceflight[edit]

Commercial spaceflight plans include:

Airlines Destinations
SpaceX suborbital reusable prototype flights
Virgin Galactic suborbital passenger flights

Operation[edit]

As of November 2013, twenty suborbital missions have been successfully launched from Spaceport America.[36]

Virgin Galactic[edit]

White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo on the spaceport taxiway.

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 212 hour commercial suborbital trips. As of February 2011, Virgin Galactic has accepted over 400 reservations and collected $50 million in deposits.[37] 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.[38]

As of January 2012, Virgin Galactic, plans to directly employ about 150 persons at the spaceport site.[39]

X Prize Foundation[edit]

Back in 2005, Spaceport America was expected to be the annual venue for the X Prize Cup suborbital spaceflight competitions, once it was fully operational.[40][dated info]

SpaceX[edit]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Branson Dedicates Space Terminal". Wallstreet Journal. 18 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  2. ^ a b David, Leonard (2007-09-04). "Spaceport America: First Looks at a New Space Terminal". space.com. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  3. ^ Simon Hancock and Alan Moloney (20 June 2009). "Work starts on New Mexico spaceport". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  4. ^ Ohtake, Miyoko (August 25, 2007). "Virgin Galactic Preps for Liftoff at World's First Commercial Spaceport". Wired Magazine (15:10). Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  5. ^ "History of Spaceport America". New Mexico State University. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  6. ^ Hill, Karl (2006). "Destination: Space-Not even the sky's the limit for new aerospace industry". New Mexico State University. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  7. ^ a b "Spaceport America: History". New Mexico Spaceport Authority. 2007. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  8. ^ Haussamen, Heath (2006-04-04). "Temporary spaceport being built; 1st launch likely 'before September'". Las Cruces Sun-News. p. 1A. 
  9. ^ Holston, Mike (2007-04-28). "Spaceport America interview" (wma video). UP Aerospace. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  10. ^ Caldwell, Alicia (2007-04-28). "Ashes of Star Trek's Scotty Fly to Space". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  11. ^ Alba, Diana M. (2007-12-12). "New tax still up in the air". Las Cruces Sun-News. ISSN 1081-2172. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  12. ^ "First images of Spaceport America revealed". Flight Global. 2007-04-09. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  13. ^ Kaufman, Marc (2008-05-10). "New Mexico Moves Ahead on Spaceport: 2010 Opening Appears to Be Within Reach, Even With Remaining Hurdles". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  14. ^ Medina, Jose L. (2008-11-06). "Spaceport to move forward despite Otero vote". Las Cruces Sun-News. ISSN 1081-2172. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  15. ^ a b Spaceport America, New Mexico Spaceport Authority (December 2008). "Spaceport Progress 2008 / 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  16. ^ "Spaceport America Construction Status". May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  17. ^ "Spaceport receives launch license". Las Cruces Sun-News. 2008-12-16. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  18. ^ "FAA Issues Launch Site Operator License for Spaceport America" (Press release). New Mexico Spaceport Authority. 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  19. ^ "America Spaceport Grows Desert". Fox News. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  20. ^ Alba, Diana M. (2009-01-01). "Virgin Galactic signs Spaceport America lease". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  21. ^ "Governor Bill Richardson Announces Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic Sign Historic Lease Agreement" (Press release). New Mexico Spaceport Authority. 2008-12-31. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  22. ^ Meeks, Ashley (2008-12-19). "Company chosen to build spaceport". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  23. ^ "Construction Management Firm Named for Spaceport America" (Press release). New Mexico Spaceport Authority. 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  24. ^ Ramirez, Steve (2009-04-10). "Spaceport America offers job opportunities". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  25. ^ "Tours of spaceport site in December". Las Cruces Sun-News. 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2009-10-22. [dead link]
  26. ^ "Spaceport America Hardhat Tours Announced at ISPCS" (PDF) (Press release). Spaceport America. October 21, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  27. ^ Barry, Dan (February 21, 2010). "A New Exit to Space Readies for Business". New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Virgin spaceship to pass new milestone". AFP via Yahoo News. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  29. ^ Roberts, Chris (2010-10-23). "New era draws closer: Spaceport dedicates runway on New Mexico ranch". El Paso Times. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "two-thirds of the $212 million required to build the spaceport came from the state of New Mexico... The rest came from construction bonds backed by a tax approved by voters in Doña Ana and Sierra counties." 
  30. ^ a b Polland, Jennifer (2012-08-30). "See Where The World's First Commercial Space Flights Will Take Off From". Business Insider. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  31. ^ "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."" 
  32. ^ "Letter of Resignation". ispcs.com. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  33. ^ a b c d http://www.spaceportamerica.com/about-us/spaceport-america.html
  34. ^ Korte, Tim (2009-06-19). "Ceremony marks New Mexico spaceport launch". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  35. ^ Messier, Doug (2014-01-30). "Plans for Spaceport America Visitors Center Scaled Back". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  36. ^ "Spaceport America Construction Status". Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  37. ^ VSS Enterprise Completes First Manned Glide Flight, Virgin Galactic, 2010-10-10, accessed 2010-12-30.
  38. ^ "Spaceport America - White Sands New Mexico". Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  39. ^ 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."" 
  40. ^ "Private Spaceflight: Shifting into Fast Forward". space.com. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  41. ^ a b Lindsey, Clark (2013-05-07). "SpaceX to test Grasshopper reusable booster at Spaceport America in NM". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2013-05-07. (subscription required (help)). 
  42. ^ "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." 

External links[edit]