Spaceport Runway Opens With WK2 Landing

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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, carried beneath the WhiteKnightTwo mothership, landed at the New Mexico Spaceport last week to christen the new runway. "We are celebrating the world's first spaceway at the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport," said Governor Bill Richardson, who was joined for the event by Virgin CEO Richard Branson. The spaceship flew over the spaceport, where a crowd of media and future space travelers was gathered, then landed on the new runway, which is over 10,000 feet long. The runway is constructed from four inches of asphalt and 14 inches of concrete, laid on top of a two-foot-deep bedding surface, which is strong enough to support just about any aircraft flying today, according to the spaceport's news release. Branson said the event was "truly inspiring," and added, "I for one can't wait for the grand opening."

The spaceship recently made its first free flight, gliding to a landing at Mojave, and more milestones are expected soon. "Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program," Branson said. Besides the new runway, the spaceport facility includes a hangar, which is nearing completion, that will house up to two WhiteKnightTwos and five SpaceShipTwos, in addition to all of Virgin's astronaut preparation facilities and mission control.