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Mon, Apr 02, 2012

New Mexico Spaceport Authority OKs Runway Extension

Two-Thousand Feet Will Be Added To The Nearly Two-Mile Runway

Spaceport America plans to extend its main runway by 2,000 feet to accommodate Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board approved the extension at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The move comes after Virgin Galactic conducted a series of test flights and simulations that led it to conclude that the additional runway length would be needed "under certain conditions."  Spaceport Spokesman David Wilson told the Associated Press that the extension was a safety concern. He said the landing charactaristics of SpaceShipTwo were "a guess until they started dropping it and simulating and doing different scenarios."

One such scenario would be a rocket misfire, in which the spacecraft would have to return to Earth heavy with a full load of fuel, which would require a longer landing roll The altitude and often high temperatures experienced at the desert spaceport also dictate longer runways.

The runway extension is estimated to cost about $7 million. Wilson said money would be moved around internally to accommodate the cost of the project. The Spaceport has a taxpayer-based budget of $209 million.

The design will take about six to eight months before construction could begin.



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