British billionaire Richard Branson signed a 20-year lease with
the state of New Mexico last week to build the first US spaceport,
and Virgin Galactic expects to break ground on the facility by
April, with completion slated for sometime in 2010.
"The signing of this agreement is a momentous day for our state
and has cemented New Mexico as the home of commercial space
travel," Governor Bill Richardson said.
"I want to thank Virgin Galactic for partnering with us to
create a whole new industry that is going to transform the economy
of Southern New Mexico - creating thousands of jobs, generating
money for education, boosting tourism and attracting other
companies and economic opportunities to the area."
$140 million in state funds have been made available for the
project, freed for use by the Federal Aviation Administration's
grant of a launch license to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
The launch site has previously been used by Lockheed Martin,
Armadillo Aerospace, UP Aerospace, Microgravity Enterprises, and
The WhiteKnight Two is the world's largest, all carbon composite
aircraft; it has a unique high altitude lift capacity, capable of
launching SpaceShip Two and its eight astronauts into sub-orbital
space flight. For the price of $200,000, passengers will experience
sub-orbital spaceflight and a brief period of zero-gravity.