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Despite Slumping Economy, Spaceport America Prepares for Lift Off

January 30, 2009

By Scott Blair
A version of this story first appeared in Southwest Contractor.

With key action taken in recent weeks, the world’s first private spaceport is edging closer to a groundbreaking.

Designed by Foster + Partners and URS Corp., the $198 million Spaceport America project is slated to be built in Upham, New Mexico. According to prior reports, the facility is designed to accommodate two transport airplanes and five spaceships. Its “superhangar” and terminal will include training facilities, a mission control center, viewing galleries, and passenger lounges.

Designed by Foster + Partners and URS Corp., the $198 million Spaceport America project is slated to be built in Upham, New Mexico.
Image: Courtesy URS/Foster + Partners

The world’s first private spaceport is edging closer to a groundbreaking. Designed by Foster + Partners and URS Corp., the $198 million Spaceport America project is slated to be built in Upham, New Mexico.

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On December 15, the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation issued a license for vertical and horizontal launch from the spaceport. Days later, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority selected Gerald Martin Construction Management of Albuquerque to oversee construction of the 100,000-square-foot hangar and terminal. 

On December 31, Governor Bill Richardson announced that the State of New Mexico signed a 20-year lease agreement with Virgin Galactic. The lease agreement with an anchor tenant was the final requirement set by the New Mexico legislature to release the next level of funding for the project and has cleared the way for construction to begin. 

“The signing of this agreement is a momentous day for our state and has cemented New Mexico as the home of commercial space travel,” Richardson stated in a press release. He added that the partnership will “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.”  

James Mee, Gerald Martin’s vice president of construction management, described the project as a “historic endeavor” and said his company has assembled a team that will include specialists experienced with aviation and rocket facilities, aeronautical safety, and working with NASA. 

Construction is set to begin in the first quarter of 2009, with the terminal and hangar scheduled for completion next year. Road construction is currently under way.

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