Virgin Galactic to Dedicate Spaceport America Terminal on Monday

 Virgin Galactic will take another step toward opening a new era of space travel by formally dedicating its new home at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico on Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. Sir Richard Branson will attend the event, which will include a press conference and dedication ceremony, along with more than 150 future Virgin Galactic astronauts from around the world. The Terminal Hangar Facility will serve as the operating hub for Virgin Galactic and will house up to two WhiteKnightTwos and five SpaceShipTwos, in addition to all of Virgin’s astronaut preparation facilities and mission control.

FAA Grants Fund Improvements at Three Spaceports

The FAA has awarded grants totaling nearly $500,000 to improve spaceports in Virginia, California and New Mexico:

  • $249,378 to the New Mexico Space Port Authority’s Spaceport America to construct a mobile structure to prepare larger rockets before launch;
  • $125,000 to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to improve security and remote monitoring;
  • $125,000 to the East Kern Airport District’s Mojave Air and Space Port in California for a Supplemental Environmental Assessment.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the “funding will help pay for a roll-back vehicle integration building to prepare space vehicles for launch. The facility will accommodate the larger vehicles that are under development and also be on a rail system that can be rolled back from the vehicle to help maintain dimensional stability.”

The grants were made under an FAA program that funds infrastructure improvements at the nation’s licensed spaceports.

Video: NMSA’s Christina Anderson Talks About Spaceport America

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson talks about the development and future of Spaceport America. Some highlights from the El Paso Times article:

The first phase of construction of Spaceport America, New Mexico’s $209 million commercial spaceflight launch complex, is 90 percent complete.

Virgin Galactic, the spaceport’s anchor tenant, plans to dedicate the terminal-hangar sometime in October….

Sir Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Galactic, has not said exactly when the aerospace company will take space tourists from its future headquarters at Spaceport America on suborbital flights to the edge of space. At his request, the terminal-hangar has been named the Virgin Galactic Gateway To Space.

Various space aviation experts have suggested that Virgin Galactic may launch its first space tourist flights sometime in 2013…..

Anderson is convinced that the spaceport will eventually rely less on the state government as a primary source of money. “Our goal is to be self-sustaining,” she said.

Read the full story.

NMSA Praises NASA Selection of Suborbital Providers

LAS CRUCES, NM (NMSA PR) – The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) congratulates the seven companies selected by NASA to provide near-space flight services. In a statement from NASA on August 9, each of these companies will integrate and fly technology payloads to the boundary of space using commercial suborbital launch systems as part of a package of contracts worth a combined total of $10 million. Several of the companies selected have conducted operations from Spaceport America.


Did Richardson Oversell Spaceport America’s Potential?

Bloomberg News has a story looking at the challenges facing Spaceport America as it nears completion in the New Mexico desert. The article raises the real possibility that then-Gov. Bill Richardson sold the project to the state’s taxpayers based on overly optimistic economic assumptions:

Now, Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican who replaced Richardson in January, has ordered an audit of the spaceport’s spending and said the facility must secure private investment to augment the public money. Spaceport director Christine Andersen, who took charge in February, disavows the earlier job projections, calling them a “feel-good plan.”


Spaceport America Issues Media Relations RFP

NMSA PR – LAS CRUCES, NM – The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for Media Relations Services for Spaceport America, announced Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the NMSA.

“Spaceport America has been attracting attention from news and media outlets worldwide,” said Anderson. “This contract will help develop, manage and maintain effective communications with members of the local, national and international press corps as well as the public about our exciting project.”


Spaceport America Awards Visitor Experience Contract

NMSA PR – LAS CRUCES, NM – The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) announced the selection of Integrity Arts & Technology, Inc., d/b/a/ IDEAS as the contractor to develop the Spaceport America Visitor Experience. The company was awarded a two- phase contract of a not-to-exceed value of $7.5 million.

IDEAS and their team will oversee the design and development of the Visitor Experience and facilities at Spaceport America, as well as the design, fabrication and installation of all exhibits and attractions for visitors to the spaceport. The company will also conduct market research, enhance the spaceport branding and marketing, and facilitate alliance and sponsorship development opportunities. IDEAS will also provide construction administration during the building phase of the Visitor Experience facilities.


Gov. Martinez Appoints New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board


SANTA FE – Governor Susana Martinez announced today that she has made appointments to all positions on the Spaceport Authority Board of Directors. The appointments come as the Martinez administration continues to review all boards and commissions to make necessary adjustments and ensure that New Mexico’s taxpayers receive the best possible return on their investment. Each member has agreed not to conduct business with the Spaceport for two years after leaving their position on the board.


Homans Disputes Gov. Martinez’s Claims He Was Uncooperative

Former New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Rick Homans has fired back at Gov. Susana Martinez’s claim that he was uncooperative with her transition team:

In your Sunday story, Governor Martinez declares that the Board of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and me, its Executive Director, withheld information from her and the transition team.

This allegation is wholly untruthful.

Branson Urged Governor Martinez to Keep Rick Homans as NMSA Chief

Sir Richard Branson and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Gov. Susana Martinez said she dismissed New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Rick Homans despite a plea from Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson:

Martinez acknowledged that Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson called her to request that former spaceport Executive Director Rick Homans be retained, but said she needed to make a change, in part because her team has not been able to conduct a thorough review of spaceport operations. She removed both Homans and the spaceport board, and has yet to name replacements.


Martinez Sacks Spaceport Board as Problems at Spaceport America Surface

Terminal Hangar Facility at Spaceport America.

Gov. Susana Martinez sacked the entire New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors on Friday. Two days later, the Albuquerque Journal published an investigative report exposing construction delays, poor planning, and weak managerial oversight on the $209-million desert spaceport outside of Truth or Consequences.


Spaceport America Update: Building Boarded Up for Redesign

Terminal Hangar Facility at Spaceport America.

I found some additional details on a construction delay that occurred late last year at Spaceport America. The Albuquerque Journal reported on Nov. 30:

One of two major structures under construction at the New Mexico Spaceport has been boarded up as officials re-evaluate its interior design.
The $2.9 million aircraft rescue and firefighting building was about 70 percent complete when workers were told to pack up, demobilize and return as late as April of next year.