British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson has dedicated his new spaceport with abseiling and champagne as he launched his new tourism movement. The world’s first commercial spaceport, build from scratch, is to be known as Spaceport America: Virgin Galactic Centre for Space.
Tourism In Space
Branson, head of Virgin Media, built the $209 million spaceport in order to promote tourist flights into space. He has already sold 450 tickets. The flights will be two and a half hours and will include five minutes of weightlessness. They cost #200,000, or £127,000. Hundreds of people gathered for the dedication in New Mexico, including the state’s governor Susana Martinez and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Test flights are scheduled for next year, around the end of 2012 and the billionaire estimates that the first commercial flights could take place shortly after. The first flight had been hoped for 2007, but the project has been delayed due to contractor disputes and building code issues. The spaceport was partially funded by taxpayers, and Virgin Galctic agreed with the government in New Mexico that the project would be allowed six years ago, but the company will need a license from the Federal Aviation Administration before it can begin commercial flights.
Viewing the Building
“The building is absolutely magnificent. It is literally out of this world, and that’s what we were aiming at creating,” said Sir Richard, speaking about the new building on Monday after viewing it for the first time in nearly a year.
Nearly 150 people who had already bought tickets were in the crowd, which was given the treat of a flyover from Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, the first ship in the fleet., branded with “Virgin”. The mogul and his children will be included in some of the first passengers, but will need to wait until safety is assured before any passengers who have bought tickets can go up.
Branson has said the sub orbital flights are only the beginning for the company, with plans for an orbital future, space hotels and inter continental flights in space. “If you don’t dream you don’t achieve anything so from our dreams we try to inspire engineers and technicians to make dreams become realities,” he said.