Virgin Galactic opens the doors to the ‘Gateway to Space’ – Spaceport America in New Mexico deemed ‘operationally functional’

19 August, 2019

The return of supersonic passenger air travel, commercial flights into space. It is no longer Science Fiction, but on the verge of reality, even if it is not on everyone’s radar, from a price point at least. For Business travellers the first could bring significant cost savings for air travel, the latter, while initially mainly expected for tourism means, could ultimately bring long-haul travel down to a short-haul timescale.

Virgin Galactic, one of a number of companies in the ‘space race’ last week revealed the first look at the interior fit-out of its ‘Gateway to Space’ building at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The work completed showcased two floors of the building primarily focused on spaceflight operations, which also incorporates communal spaces designed for use in the future by Virgin Galactic customers, along with their friends and families. Completion of this interior work means the spaceport facility is now “operationally functional” and “able to support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements,” says the company.

Virgin Galactic aims to pioneer human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers. It believes the commercial exploration of space represents one of the most exciting and significant technology initiatives of our time. It is in the final stages of development, having already completed two crewed flights of its vehicle into space, and anticipates initial commercial launch as early as 2020.

It says it is embarking on this commercial exploration journey with a mission “to put humans into space and return them safely to earth on a routine, consistent and affordable basis”. Using its proprietary and reusable technologies, and supported by the distinctive and world-renowned, Virgin–branded customer experience, it says it is “developing a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique, multi-day experience culminating in a spaceflight that includes several minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth from space”.

The images of the terminal building at Spaceport America shows that its is split into two floors – named Gaia and Cirrus, according to Virgin Galactic. The first floor is focused on our home planet and is designed into formal and informal spaces which will host the space operations team, Future Astronauts and their family and friends. It serves as the social hub of the building.

The second floor is the heart of spaceflight operations, and is connected to the community hub of Gaia below through a double height atrium. This area is home to Mission Control, the Mission Briefing Room, the Pilot Corps and the rest of the Flight Operations team.

The unveiling follows the announcement in may-2019 of the move of spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, California to the commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico as the development and testing programme advances.