Virgin Galactic commercial spaceport is operational

News, Space

Virgin Galactic has said the world’s first specifically designed commercial spaceport is “operationally functional”.

The company, owned by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, announced the transfer of all its spaceflight operations to Spaceport America in New Mexico on Thursday.

Virgin Galactic had been carrying out test flights from Mojave, California – including the first successful launch of its tourism rocket plane into space in December last year.


Over 600 people have already paid $80 million (£64.2 million) of deposits to the company to secure their tickets on the first spaceflights.

The business has now revealed the interior of its “Gateway to Space” building at the spaceport – including two floors primarily focused on spaceflight operations, and a further floor of communal spaces specifically designed for future customers.

As a result of the completion of the interior work, the company said the spaceport facility can now “support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements”.

Virgin Galactic spaceship
The SpaceShipTwo during its first supersonic powered flight (Virgin Galactic/PA)

The company has said the communal area is specifically designed for astronauts to share their experience with pilots, rocket engineers and operatives from Mission Control.

Last month, Virgin Galactic announced its merger with New York-listed Social Capital Hedosophia to set itself up to become the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company.

Commenting on the unveiling of the new spaceport, the company said: “Virgin Galactic has striven to remain faithful to that tradition by choosing an elegant, experience-focused concept for the space launch system itself.

Spaceport America is the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport (Virgin Galactic/PA)

“Similarly, the company’s choice to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico was due in no small part to the state’s decision to commission landmark architecture for the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

“The Foster + Partners Gateway to Space facility pays homage to the past in its respect for the ancient surrounding landscape while powerfully embracing the future through energy efficiency and sustainability.

“It was also specifically designed to enable Virgin Galactic to create an unparalleled experience as its customers prepare for journeys of a lifetime before graduating as astronauts.”

Chris Price
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