Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism project, this week revealed its Spaceport America hub in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which will serve as the main terminal for spaceflight operations. The company anticipates that its first commercial space flights will take place in 2020.
Branson launched Virgin Galactic in 2004 with the dream of bringing travelers into space. He’s finally getting close to actually fulfilling that dream.
The Spaceport terminal includes communal areas that will ultimately be used by Virgin Galactic’s first commercial passengers, as well as by their friends and families.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the facility was created to be an energy-efficient structure that both respects the surrounding desert landscape while remaining a symbol of the future. This will be where Virgin Galactic will prepare its customers to ultimately become astronauts.
The first floor, named Gaia, will be the point of departure and return. It was designed to promote social interaction, community, and communication. The astronauts will be able to share meals and interact with spaceship pilots, rocket engineers, and members of the operations team.
The second floor, which is named Cirrus, is where the spaceflight operations will be based, and it is connected to Gaia through a two-story atrium.
The Spaceport will also house the space fleet. The Virgin Galactic fleet consists of two types of aircraft—carrier aircraft and passenger-carrying spaceships. The carrier aircraft are designed to carry the spaceships up to an altitude of about 50,000 feet where they will be launched beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
The first of the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, was introduced in 2008 and has completed a test flight program. The first passenger spaceship, VSS Unity, was unveiled in 2016 and landed from its maiden spaceflight in December 2018.
More than 600 people from more than 50 countries have made a reservation to fly with Virgin Galactic. The 90-minute flight reportedly costs $250,000 per person to have a brief encounter beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
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