Spaceport America can be found in New Mexico, United States and is the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. It opened for business in October 2011 and since then has already signed up several permanent tenants: UP Aerospace was the first, Sir Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fleet, and just this May Elon Musk‘s SpaceX signed a three-year lease.
Plans for the spaceport can be traced back to the early 90’s but construction only started in 2006, the year Richard Branson announced that the new Virgin Galactic would make New Mexico its world headquarters. Completed in August 2012 at a total cost of $209 million, the site covers 18.000 acres (about 72 square kilometers or 28 square miles), and you can check out the facility map here.
Designed in collaboration with Foster + Partners, a UK company with extensive designing airport buildings (view their stunning picture gallery here), the spaceport lies low within the desert-like landscape of the site in New Mexico and seen from the historic El Camino Real trail, the organic form of the terminal resembles a rise in the landscape. Foster + Partners managed to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum accreditation with its design. From the low-lying form dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass acting as a buffer from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation, the natural light that enters via skylights, to a glazed façade reserved for the terminal building, establishing a platform for the coveted views onto the runway, this is one stunning sight to behold.
The first images (hopefully in 2014!) of space tourists lifting off from this futuristic spaceport will herald an exciting era for space travel – let the future begin!