First commercial flights will take off later this year
Virgin Galactic has started to move its operations – and spacecraft – to its purpose-built spaceport in New Mexico. This is a significant milestone, as it means the company’s testing programme is now sufficient enough to begin readying its first commercial flights.
The latest developments were revealed during a press conference last week at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe, hosted by governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson was present to make the announcement that more than 100 Virgin Galactic staff and its spacecraft would begin moving from the original testing grounds in Mojave, California to the commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico.
Spaceport America is the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. Virgin Galactic will use the facility to operate a regular commercial spaceflight service for paying passengers and scientific research. The hangar, offices, fuel farm, warehouse and antenna for telemetry and communications, as well as the interior fit-out, are all completed and ready.
To date, more than 600 men and women from 50 countries – greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space – have reserved places to fly on Virgin Galactic’s reusable space launch system, consisting of carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo and spacecraft SpaceShipTwo.
Sir Richard Branson said, “Our Virgin Galactic adventure has been intertwined with New Mexico and Spaceport America right from the start, and our stories have unfolded together. New Mexico delivered on its promise to build a world-first and world-class spaceport. Today, I could not be more excited to announce that, in return, we are now ready to bring New Mexico a world-first, world-class spaceline. Virgin Galactic is coming home to New Mexico where together we will open space to change the world for good”.