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Virgin Galactic Signs Deal To Build Spaceport In New Mexico

$198M Facility To Be Completed In 2010

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 Payload Specialties.

As ANN reported, Burt Rutan originally designed the first White Knight and SpaceShipOne to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004. The WhiteKnight Two mothership is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines.

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.

FMI: www.spaceportamerica.com, www.virgingalactic.com



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