Virgin Galactic is the arm of Virgin Group that is intended to develop commercial space travel. This week, the company’s chief, Sir Richard Branson celebrated the completion of Spaceport America, the first commercial purpose-built space port in Upham, N.M.
The spaceport includes a two-mile long runway called the “Governor BIll Richardson Spaceway.” It’s 42 inches thick and can support every existing type of space craft currently in existence.
“New Mexico is not only helping to launch the commercial spaceflight industry, but we are launching new jobs and opportunities for the people of southern N.M.,” Gov. Richardson said in a press release.
The runway was dedicated in a celebration that included Branson, Richardson, about 30 of 380 Virgin Galactic future astronauts who got to see Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo jet carry the SpaceShip Two in a landing and flyover. The future astronauts are those who have already paid or put down a deposit for the $200,00 trip, a Reuters report said. The company already has deposits for more than $50 million.
“The last few weeks have been some of the most exciting in Virgin Galactic’s development,” Branson said in the release. “Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program.”
Branson said that he plans to be taking passengers into space in nine to 18 months.
President Barack Obama recently signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 into effect. It’s a bill that appropriates $58.4 billion for NASA programs over the next three years and gives an additional flight to the space shuttle fleet.