Recent movement has highlighted Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space tourism plans. Earlier in May, Branson announced that Virgin Galactic will be making a move to a $220 million station, Spaceport America, in New Mexico. State officials are now looking to revive and redesign plans for what will be the first place created for civilian space travel.
The spaceflight company founded in 2004 was aimed to offer suborbital flights to tourists as well as suborbital science missions. Branson had originally projected that the first flight might occur near the end of 2009, but plans faced multiple delays, the most recent being the loss of SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise in late 2014.
Aimee Awonohopay, spokesperson for tourism secretary Jen Paul Schroer, said, “We did get a special appropriation specifically for Virgin Galactic and a possible upcoming initial launch sometime during the fiscal year. But the announcement really didn’t give us much time to plan.” Spaceport America CEO, Dan Hicks, said the he is collaborating with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s cabinet members as they work on public safety concerns, homeland security, highways, and tourism development. This is in preparation for the reporters and onlookers of Virgin Galactic’s first launch as well as to develop Spaceport America for more visitors.
How much is it going to cost?
At the moment there are roughly 12 licensed spaceports in the U.S, but the New Mexico site is special due to the fact that it’s the first station that was started from scratch and is primarily for private commercial purposes. The price is around $250,000 for each person wishing to take part on this space journey. As of yet, it is still undetermined when the first flight will take place. Virgin along with Blue Origin – the American privately funded aerospace manufacturer – say that they hope to start space tourism flights sometime this year. Branson said that he wants the initial launch to take place on the 20th of July to mark the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing, but Hicks feels that it’s an unrealistic expectation.