Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has taken another step forward with the announcement of an agreement with the State of New Mexico:
Virgin Galactic, the British company created by entrepreneur Richard Branson to send tourists into space, and New Mexico announced an agreement Tuesday for the state to build a $225 million spaceport. Virgin Galactic also revealed that up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of its manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 “founders” who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight upfront. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009.
It all sounds very cool, although one might quibble with New Mexico’s decision to use taxpayer funds to build a spaceport for Mr. Branson.
Nevertheless, the preliminary details of the plan sound pretty cool:
Virgin Galactic said it had chosen New Mexico as the site for its headquarters because of its steady climate, free airspace, low population density and high altitude. All those factors can significantly reduce the cost of the space flight program.
The spaceport, to be located some 25 miles south of the town of Truth or Consequences, will be constructed 90 percent underground, with just the runway and supporting structures above ground.
An underground spaceport? Near a town called Truth or Consequences? It’s like something out of James Bond…
Update: Come to think of it, there may be a slight resemblance there…