A Brief History of Spaceport America

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

UPDATED: 8/20/19, 12:08 p.m. PDT

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan, British billionaire Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity at Spaceport America in New Mexico and take the first commercial suborbital space flight in history.

The landmark flight, which Virgin has been trying to conduct for 15 years, will also be the culmination of a 30-year effort by New Mexico to become a commercial space power.

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SpaceX is Developing a Reusable VTVL Rocket

SpaceX's test site in McGregor, Texas. (Credit: SpaceX)

Via my friend Clark Lindsey over at HobbySpace comes some rather startling news:

SpaceX is developing an 106-foot tall reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) rocket called Grasshopper based upon the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket.  It has applied for an experimental permit to conduct a series of flights up to 11,500 feet at its engine testing facility in McGregor, Texas.

Here’s the description of the vehicle and its flight profile from a draft environmental impact assessment released by the FAA earlier this week:

The Grasshopper RLV consists of a Falcon 9 Stage 1 tank, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. Carbon overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), which are filled with either nitrogen or helium, are attached to the support structure. The Merlin-1D engine has a maximum thrust of 122,000 pounds. The overall height of the Grasshopper RLV is 106 feet, and the tank height is 85 feet.

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