Is Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport Heading to A City Near You?
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Every year millions of Americans pass through the hallways of our nation’s airports. For those who don’t belong to a frequent flier club, the experience can be decidedly not so fun. From the confusing security regulations to the endlessly winding terminals, our airports sometimes seem as though they’ve been designed to drive us crazy. And it’s a shame. Airports could and should be a shining example of modern technology at its best. But years of neglect and financial hardships have left many American airports in desperate need of a facelift.
Entrepreneur and explorer Richard Branson hopes to avoid the missteps of many airports as he begins building spaceports for Virgin Galactic, his space tourism company.
In 2005, Virgin Galactic signed a deal with the State of New Mexico to construct the world’s first spaceport designed specifically for commercial spaceflight.
Dubbed Spaceport America, the complex will be the headquarters of the Virgin Galactic enterprise and home to one of the most ambitious ventures of Branson’s storied career.
While construction of the $200 million dollar facility is still under way, preliminary plans have aviation enthusiasts and architecture critics alike brimming with excitement.
Designed by the UK-based Foster + Partners, Spaceport America strives to combine elements of functionality, architectural beauty, and energy efficiency all under one roof.
According to a press release from the company, the natural elements of the New Mexican landscape will add to the dynamics of the spaceport, while the unique design will “seek to capture the drama and mystery of space flight.”
Instead of endless rows of fluorescent lighting, skylights will bring in natural light from the desert sun. The building’s low-lying form, nestled into the surrounding landscapes, will guard against the harsh climate of the region, while the structure’s strategic positioning will bring in the prevailing westerly winds to create a natural ventilation system. Unlike airports that hide control centers and daily operations behind security checkpoints and high walls, Spaceport America strives for transparency. The control center will be open for all to see from the visitors center, allowing space travelers and tourists alike to catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the inner workings of commercial spaceflight.
While construction on the project is sill underway, preliminary operations at Spaceport America have already begun. This past April, the spaceport celebrated its 15th successful vertical rocket launch. Though closed to the public, each launch is another important step toward commercial spaceflight.
With a second spaceport planned for Abu Dhabi, Virgin Galactic is quickly moving forward to construct the next tier of transportation hubs. As the company website puts it, “a unique business requires a very special home” — or, at the very least, a home that’s a lot nicer than JFK.
By Jason Taetsch
Jason Taetsch is a freelance content writer with experience in tech writing, blogs, travel writing, pop culture and a range of promotional materials. Jason blogs via Contently.com.