British billionaire Richard Branson opened on Monday the world’s first-ever commercial spaceport in the New Mexico desert, the new home for his company, Virgin Galactic.
“Spaceport America,” as the site is called, will serve “as the operating hub for Virgin Galactic and is expected to house up to two WhiteKnightTwos and five SpaceShipTwos, in addition to all of Virgins astronaut preparation facilities and mission control,” said the company in a statement to the press.
Richard Branson last month said he hoped to launch a vessel into space within the next 12 months, which he said would kick off an era of commercial space travel. About 150 people already booked for travel on the first flights to orbit attended the event, said the company.
Also attending were head of Virgin Galactic George Whitesides, commercial director Stephen Attenborough, and famed US astronaut — and second human being to step on the moon — Buzz Aldrin.
A number of private companies are rushing to fill the gap left by NASA, which ended its 30-year shuttle program in July with the completion of the final Atlantis mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
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