Virgin Galactic's Spaceport needs one more thing

Tours into suborbital space could start as early as next year, but the facility still lacks a paved highway to get folks there.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 21, 2013 10:01AM

Guests stand outside the Spaceport America hangar in Upham, NM, on Oct. 17, 2011 (© Matt York/AP)Getting into space is one thing. Getting a decent road that goes to the launch site is another. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which plans to take tourists into space from the Spaceport America facility in the desert of southern New Mexico, has had its application for commercial space flights accepted by the FAA.

The problem: No paved highway now leads to the state-funded, $200 million Spaceport. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the $15 million New Mexico's Spaceport Authority had originally set aside for the 24-mile road has now shrunk to $8.1 million.

Authority officials say the lower amount is due to the Spaceport's delayed start. And even though the FAA has accepted its application, Virgin Galactic officials say it has a long way to go before it can get its spaceships off the ground.

"That does not mean we are licensed," company CEO George Whitesides told Albuquerque Business First. "We entered the formal start of the licensing process. Then, obviously, our hope is that it will be accepted and we can begin operations."

FAA review of the Virgin Galactic application is expected to take several months. Meanwhile, reports the company successfully tested its SpaceShip Two rocket motor in the air, taking the vehicle through the sound barrier.

Seats on Virgin Galactic currently cost $250,000 each, and suborbital flights aren't expected to start until 2014 at the earliest, but the company has already booked 640 seats.

Back on the ground, those flights can't some soon enough for New Mexico communities near the Spaceport. They're looking to benefit from increased tourist trade, including at a proposed visitor center. The Spaceport itself has already created 1,000 jobs so far in New Mexico.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 21, 2013 11:12AM
Thank God we still have some people with vision willing to invest in our country.
Aug 24, 2013 6:11PM
Just keep the g-dd-m TSA away from there.
Aug 23, 2013 11:08AM
There already is a nice paved road to Spaceport America, this article, while spun incorrectly, is addressing a "southern" route.

Come visit Truth or Consequences, NM, enjoy our river riding, hot mineral spas, large mouth bass fishing, birding, incredible golf, elk, deer, bear, mountain lion, turkey, AND a nice 20 minute drive via a paved road to Spaceport America!

Aug 21, 2013 5:28PM
At a quarter million dollars per ride, They could just ferry people in on a helicopter.... 
Aug 24, 2013 5:53PM
I have heard of the mile high club, but would this be considered the "50 mile club". This could have possibilities for the thrill seekers should this actually work!
Aug 24, 2013 6:32PM
Aug 24, 2013 9:59AM
So when will the book come out...."Tales from a Spaceport Bar"? Oh, wait, somebody already did that book. Branson better start catching up.
Aug 25, 2013 1:11AM
Nice to see that  they've  booked 640 seats, hopefully this will translated into more revenue for the local businesses.
Aug 24, 2013 7:44PM
No paved road?  Ignorance prevails.
Aug 21, 2013 12:16PM
wait until the first onw blows u with people aboard
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