Virgin Galactic offers glimpse of world’s first working commercial spaceport

The company has transferred all of its operations to Spaceport America in New Mexico

Virgin Galactic's Spaceflight System prepares for Flight at Spaceport America
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Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company owned by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, has announced the start of operations at the world’s first commercial spaceport, giving select visitors a first look at the facility.

In a statement, the company said the first ever purpose-designed spaceport, located in New Mexico in the United States, was “operationally functional and able to support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements”. The company added it would be transferring all of its spaceflight operations to the facility on Thursday.

Virgin Galactic said in a statement that the company had “striven to remain faithful to that tradition by choosing an elegant, experience-focused concept for the space launch system itself”.

"It was also specifically designed to enable Virgin Galactic to create an unparalleled experience as its customers prepare for journeys of a lifetime before graduating as astronauts," it added.

The custom space flight headquarters includes a mission control as well as a preparation area for pilots and a lounge got passengers, friends and family. Two giant sliding doors hide enough space in the Spaceport America hangar to hold two of Virgin’s carrier planes and a fleet of rockets, capable of carrying six passengers each.

The opening of the spaceport comes following years 15 years of work. According to the Associated Press, the plan for the Virgin Galactic headquarters was first proposed by Mr Branson and former Democrat governor for New Mexico Bill Richardson.

However, delays and cost overruns mired construction. At the same time obstacles to Virgin Galactic’s spaceship development, including the crash of an experimental craft in 2014 that killed a test pilot, also hampered the project.

Commercial flights will not start at the spaceport until test flights are complete. Roughly 600 individuals have reserved seats on the first flights on board Virgin’s space flights. Tickets for journey on the winged rocket ships to the boundary of space cost $250,000 (Dh 918,245).