2 January 2009
Announcements - Vehicles (Good)
Virgin Galactic Signs 20-Year Lease With Spaceport America
It's already a happy new year
by G B Leatherwood
Commercial space tourism got off to a good start for 2009 with the New Year’s Day announcement by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson that Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease agreement with the state of New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic will establish its world headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico, at Spaceport America, the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the US.

Governor Richardson said in his announcement, “The signing of this agreement is a momentous day for our state and has cemented New Mexico as the home of commercial space travel. I want to thank Virgin Galactic for partnering with us to create a whole new industry that is going to transform the economy of Southern New Mexico—creating thousands of jobs, generating money for education, boosting tourism and attracting other companies and economic opportunities to the area.”

The signing of the lease agreement is the final step in meeting the requirements of the New Mexico legislature to release the next level of funding for Spaceport America. This clears the way for construction of the spaceport facilities, which should start early this year. Road construction to the spaceport is already underway, and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority has selected Gerald Martin Construction Management of Albuquerque to oversee construction of the facilities. The final design for the terminal and hangar facility is being completed by the architectural firm of URS/Foster + Partners.

Anchor tenant Virgin Galactic has already begun the test-flying program of the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) launch vehicle in Mojave, CA. WK2 will serve as the mothership for SpaceShipTwo, the suborbital vehicle that will carry commercial adventurers to the fringe of space. The Spaceport Authority is getting the attention of other aerospace firms; Spaceport America plans to work closely with Lockheed Martin, Rocket Racing Inc./Armadillo Aerospace, UP Aerospace, Microgravity Enterprises, and Payload Specialties.

“This is a historic moment for New Mexico, Spaceport America, and Virgin Galactic,” said Steven Landeene, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, “A lot of very dedicated people have been working long hours to secure this lease agreement. Like several other companies, Virgin Galactic has realized the outstanding advantages offered by Spaceport America and the State of New Mexico.”

The signing of the lease agreement comes just days after the Federal Aviation Administration approved the environmental impact statement and issued a vertical launch license to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
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G B Leatherwood 2 January 2009
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