By Mary Grady, Contributing Editor
The design for New Mexico's Spaceport America, unveiled on Tuesday, will incorporate the natural landscape, with a low-profile, 100,000-square-foot building that mimics a sand dune. A rolling concrete shell will act as a roof, with massive windows that open to a view of the runway and spacecraft, the designers said. A team of U.S. and British architects and designers, along with officials from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and Virgin Galactic, are working on the project, which they billed the "world's first space terminal." The terminal and hangar are projected to cost about $31 million, and will include space for Virgin Galactic's pre-flight and post-flight training facilities and lounges, as well as the maintenance hangar for two White Knight Two and five SpaceShipTwo aircraft. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with completion expected in late 2009 or early 2010.
Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic said, "Next year will see the first test flights of SpaceshipTwo and it is fantastic that we will now have a permanent home to go to, which will be every bit as inspiring for the astronauts of the future as Burt Rutan's groundbreaking technology. ... This vision for the world's first purpose-built private spaceport is truly out of this world." The project aims to be environmentally friendly, using passive energy for heating and cooling, with photovoltaic panels for electricity, natural lighting, and water recycling capabilities.