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If you’re thinking about booking flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, launching a payload with UP Aerospace or Armadillo Aerospace, or can’t wait to watch the Rocket Racing League, you’ll be happy to know New Mexico’s Spaceport America is two steps closer to becoming a reality and not just a dream. An environmental impact study on the facility was completed and approved, which set the stage for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to be able to issue a launch license to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA). The license is for both vertical and horizontal launches. “These two governmental approvals are the next steps along the road to a fully operational commercial spaceport,” said NMSA Executive Director Steven Landeene. Now, with license in hand, construction can begin on the futuristic-looking spaceport facility. Is the future and potential of commercial/personal spaceflight actually getting closer?
Several launches of smaller commercial rockets have already launched from the New Mexico site since April 2007, but now the spaceport can get ready for the “bigger” commercial rockets and commercial spacecraft that will launch the first paying customers in to suborbital space.
Landeene said bids will go out in January for the roads, runway and security buildings. The terminal and hangar are still in the design phase so those bids will go out sometime in the spring. “We could not pursue anything on site until this record of decision was received,” said Landeene. The NMSA currently projects vertical launch activity to increase in 2009 and construction to also begin in 2009 with the terminal and hangar facility for horizontal launches completed by late 2010.
“We are on track to begin construction in the first quarter of 2009, and have our facility completed as quickly as possible,” he said. The NMSA is expected to sign a lease agreement with Virgin Galactic before the end of 2008.
“It’s an important day for New Mexico and the nation as Spaceport America now adds to the United States’ launch infrastructure,” said Daniela Glick, Chair of the NMSA Board. The NMSA says Spaceport America is now positioned to become the nation’s leading commercial spaceport facility. Spaceport America has been working closely with leading aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Rocket Racing Inc./Armadillo Aerospace, UP Aerospace, Microgravity Enterprises and Payload Specialties.