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…

Richard Branson, circa 2018?

Update: Come to think of it, there may be a slight resemblance there…

Branson and Drax: together again for the first time!

  • Josh

    Although the whole idea sounds pretty cool, I don’t like the fact that the state is kicking in so much money, especially a state that is woefully inadequate in terms of poverty (25% of children in NM live at poverty level). I believe that Branson, and his personal wealth of 2-3 billion, could afford the 225 million, plus whatever else he is doing. Did the people of the state vote on appropriating the money, or to a tax hike, or the government credit card called a bond?

    With that said, this has the potential to have huge payoffs for the sleepy state of New Mexico in terms of future jobs and income. It is New Mexico’s risk to take. Although not prudent, I probably would have taken the chance to bring that to my state too.

    Congratulations to Richard Branson for once again taking a calculate risk in hopes of big pay-off. For him and New Mexico’s sake, I hope it is out of this world. (I couldn’t resist)