Spaceport America is an FAA-licensed spaceport located on 18,000 acres (7,300 ha) of State Trust Land in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin 45 miles (72 km) north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Truth or Consequences. Spaceport America is "the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport", designed and constructed specifically for commercial users, that had not previously been an airport or federal infrastructure of any kind. The site is built to accommodate both vertical and horizontal launch aerospace vehicles, as well as an array of non-aerospace events and commercial activities. Spaceport America has a new concrete paved runway, 10,000 feet long and 200 feet wide. With Virgin Galactic's launch of the VSS Unity, with three people aboard, on May 22, 2021, New Mexico became the third US state to launch humans into space after California and Florida. Another company that is active at Spaceport America is UP Aerospace. This company launches from Spaceport America its SpaceLoft XL sounding rockets that reach a maximum altitude 115 kilometers during suborbital flights. UP Aerospace provides sub-orbital transportation for corporate, military and educational payloads and the mainden launch of a SpaceLoft XL took place on 25 September 2006.
In December 2008, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority received its launch license for vertical and horizontal launch from the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Shortly thereafter, Virgin Galactic signed a 20-year lease as the anchor tenant, agreeing to pay US$1 million per year for the first five years in addition to payments on a tiered scale based on the number of launches the company makes. Spaceport America was officially declared open on October 18, 2011, the visitor center in Truth or Consequences became fully accessible to the general public on June 24, 2015, and after Virgin Galactic completed the interior buildout, the entire facility was deemed ready for operations in August 2019. The site area nets approximately 670,000 sq ft, with the terminal & hangar facility grossing an area of 110,152 sq ft. The western zone of the facility (25,597 square feet houses support and administrative facilities for Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. The central zone contains the double-height hangar (47,000 square feet) to store White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo craft. The spaceport was built with environmental sustainability in mind. Designed to meet the requirements for LEED Gold Certification, it incorporates "Earth Tubes" to cool the building, solar thermal panels, underfloor radiant cooling and heating, and natural ventilation. The onsite restaurant and mission control room have direct east views across the apron, runway and landscape beyond.
|16/34:||3,657 m / 12,000 ft|
Credit: Virgin Galactic / Spaceport America