In the middle of the New Mexico desert lies a flat piece of land, the ground paved, the infrastructure assembled, and a runway and terminal prepared for spacecraft.
Roughly 45 miles north of Las Cruces, the 18,000 acre site has a two mile long, 200 foot-wide runway. Spaceport America (originally known as Southwest Regional Spaceport) will be the world’s first commercial spaceport. The are used by the space administration for utility and scientific work in space.
“[New Mexico is] perfect because that means you need less fuel and you get more pay load when you launch,” Chris Anderson , Executive Director of New Mexico Space Authority, told FoxNews.com, “plus the predictable weather will assure on-time takeoffs.”
The government of New Mexico has promised that the new spaceport will be a boon to the local economy with the prospect of tourism on the horizon. Currently there are hard hat tours around the construction site with plans to build a commercial center.
Additional income beside tourism and Virgin Galactic flights will include launching experiments and satellites into space. The Spaceport has already had twelve launches for commercial clients.
However, some locals are skeptical on whether the spaceport will generate more business or not.
Robert Hanseck, owner of a Truth or Consequences gem store, had a critical opinion of the spaceport’s economic impact.
“It’s for rich people, I guess,” Hanseck said to KVUE news, “the people here aren’t rich and they’re not going to be made rich by this either, I don’t think.”
Happy Belly Deli restaurant, situated in Truth or Consequences, caters to Spaceport America workers. One of the Deli’s cashiers, Destiny Miller, has expressed has expressed tentative confidence on the spaceport.
“We are a little bit skeptical about it,” said Miller to KVUE news, “but I’ve actually seen firsthand some of the business that it’s generating.”
Like Hanseck there is currently some skepticism as to whether the spaceport is essential or even profitable, taking into consideration the large cost in construction and maintenance as well as civilian and business interest.
Anderson dismissed criticism that the spaceport is too high maintenance.
“I wonder if they said that about the first airport?” Anderson said to Space.com, “I just betcha.”
Currently Spaceport America is nearing completion of phase I construction despite being nine months behind schedule. Phase II is already in the planning stages and the phase will include the completion of a vertical launch facility, visitor welcome centers in neighboring towns Hatch and Truth or Consequences, and a visitor area at the spaceport. Phase II is expected to be complete in 2013 around the same time that the spaceport will become fully operational.
Virgin Galactic will make Spaceport America its world headquarters from which they will start flying the spacecraft for space tourists and other travelers. As of now, Virgin Galactic has begun taking its first reservations costing $200,000 per seat. And there are prospects of hotels to accommodate passengers and tourists.
The new facility is billed to be the next step in the commercialization of space. Previously space commercialization was left to larger aerospace companies.
Private Space Companies including SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Bigelow Aerospace, XCOR and others will join NASA and FAA Representatives in a conference discussing space industry for October 19-20 and will finish with a tour of the Spaceport. on October 17 Richard Branson along with Buzz Aldrin and 150 of the 420 first Virgin Galactic passengers officially opened the Spaceport. Though unfinished, Branson in his speech expressed over his own company and other companies resolve in space industry.
“Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic.” Branson said to Aviation Week.
“We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century.
“We’ve never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way.”