Virgin Galactic opened a new office in Las Cruces, N.M., that will complement the commercial spaceline’s growing operations team at Spaceport America and enhance the local economy through jobs, local tourism and hospitality spending.
Established in their new location at the LEED-certified Green Offices Building, Virgin Galactic will bring new employment opportunities to the region, with plans to fill several positions in diverse roles as the company ramps up for commercial operations at Spaceport America.
“Virgin Galactic is proud to be a contributor to the New Mexico economy and the local community,” said George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic. “As we open our new offices and expand our team here, we intend to help create new opportunity through hospitality and tourism that will feature New Mexico on an international stage.”
The new office opening is the latest milestone for the company’s growing presence in New Mexico. In October 2010, the company brought more than 70 high-end travel agents from around the world to learn about the areas surrounding Spaceport America. In October 2011, Virgin Galactic held an event for over 600 media, customers and VIPs to commemorate the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Building. In addition to the spin-off economic benefits for local sectors, such as accommodation, catering and transportation, these events also showcased the region to a global audience, and Virgin Galactic’s travel agents continue to promote the area.
A recent survey undertaken by Virgin Galactic found that more than 50 percent of Virgin Galactic’s astronauts have already visited southern New Mexico and averaged a stay of three to five nights between Dona Ana and Sierra Counties. The survey also showed that when Virgin Galactic customers visit New Mexico to undertake their spaceflights from Spaceport America, they intend to each bring an average of five guests with them to share their spaceflight experience.
In other Virgin Galactic news, last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that Virgin Galactic’s vehicle developer, Scaled Composites, has been granted an experimental launch permit for the suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, and the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, thus giving the green light for the project’s next major milestone: powered test flights. “This important milestone enables our team to progress to the rocket-powered phase of test flight, bringing us a major step closer to bringing our customers to space,” said Whitesides.
Already, SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo have made significant progress in their flight test program. With 80 test flights completed, WhiteKnightTwo is substantially through its test plan, while the more recently constructed SpaceShipTwo has safely completed sixteen free flights, including three that tested the vehicle’s unique “feathering” re-entry system. Additionally, ten test firings of the full scale SpaceShipTwo rocket motor, including full duration burns, have been safely and successfully completed.