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.
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, CNN.com 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.
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!
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