Regional
4:04 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Spaceport Moves Closer To December 2013 Opening

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Board of Directors approved the award of two new contracts this week, moving the spaceport closer to its grand opening in December 2013. The board approved the award of the runway modification contract to A.S Horner, an Albuquerque-based company that has been doing business for over 80 years.  The NMSA board also approved a contract award to Ashbaugh Construction for its proposed site of the Sierra County Welcome Center.

The existing runway is 10,000 feet, and the new contract will extend the runway to 12,000 feet by July 2013.  “It will provide additional safety for landing Virgin Galactic flights as well as make the Spaceport more attractive to other aerospace customers,” said Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the NMSA. The $8.4 million expansion is expected to begin shortly with design work already being completed.

The Board also approved a contract award to Ashbaugh Construction for its proposed site for the Sierra County Welcome Center.   The six-acre site will be purchased at a cost of $1,045,440. Construction will begin in January following completion of the architectural drawings. The Welcome Center will be located next to the Truth or Consequences exit from Interstate 25. “The Welcome Center will serve as the departure point for  the 200,000  Spaceport visitors  expected each year. It is a great location with exposure to passing motorists on the Interstate, “said Anderson.    While at the Welcome Center, visitors  will learn more about New Mexico and the Spaceport and then board the Spaceport Express Bus to the spaceport.  While on board, spaceport guests will learn more about the scenic area they are viewing out their windows and may even get a glimpse of herds of pure-bred bison, once abundant in America.  Guests will disembark at the on-site Visitor Center where they will be able to participate in many space-related activities and learn more about the rapidly emerging commercial space industry.  Visitors may also get to witness first-hand a Virgin Galactic launch or landing, or one of the many vertical launches at the spaceport from the observation deck.

Spaceport America is rapidly nearing completion. The Spaceport Operations Center (SOC) has earned a Certificate of Occupancy from the State of New Mexico. The interior design is underway. The SOC will house the spaceport support contractors and staff of the NMSA. The water system, wastewater system, fuel depot, permanent power systems are all complete. The large terminal hangar facility built for the spaceport’s anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, now called the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, is almost complete.  Virgin Galactic is busy with the interior design and fit-out.

While the Grand Opening is scheduled for December 2013, the spaceport continues to host many vertical launches with the next twelve months projected to be the busiest ever. Two vertical launches are scheduled in October and November of this year: the first FAA licensed launch by Armadillo Aerospace, and also an UP Aerospace launch carrying NASA Flight Opportunities payloads.

Visitors are welcome to take the Preview Tours now.  Tours run from Wednesday through Sunday and can be scheduled through Follow-the- Sun Tours, 575-740-6894www.ftstours.com.