labels: News reports, Virgin Group
Virgin Galactic signs 20-year lease agreement for spaceport news
05 January 2009

San Francisco: UK entrepreneur Richard Branson's space firm Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease agreement with the south western American state of New Mexico to build the nation's first spaceport that will allow wealthy passengers a chance to make sub-orbital space flights and briefly experience the thrill of weightlessness.

SpaceportWith the signing of the agreement, Galactic will now establish its headquarters at the facility, dubbed Spaceport America.

The Federal Aviation Administration had granted a launch license to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority only days before.

Construction of the $198m planned state-funded spaceport is expected to begin as early as April, with approximately $140m coming through legislative funding.

"The signing of this agreement is a momentous day for our state and has cemented New Mexico as the home of commercial space travel," Governor Bill Richardson said in a statement. "I want to thank Virgin Galactic for partnering with us to create a whole new industry that is going to transform the economy of Southern New Mexico - creating thousands of jobs, generating money for education, boosting tourism and attracting other companies and economic opportunities to the area."

For a fee of approximately $200,000 passengers will be taken into sub-orbital space from Spaceport America, where they will briefly experience weightlessness.

 Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two carrier craft, developed from the original WhiteKnight, has now begun test flights in Mojave, California. The WhiteKnight rode piggyback on the SpaceShip One into space in 2004.

Spaceport America officials say there have already been several commercial launches at the site since April 2007 from aerospace firms such as Lockheed Martin, Armadillo Aerospace, UP Aerospace, Microgravity Enterprises and Payload Specialties.

According to these officials, completion of the terminal and hangar facility is scheduled for completion in 2010 and a road to the site is already under construction.


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Virgin Galactic signs 20-year lease agreement for spaceport