SPACEPORT AMERICA

TRIPS TO SPACE ARE CLOSER THAN YOU THINK

Spaceport America is an actual place. It is not the set of a science fiction movie or TV show, although it could easily double as a sci-fi backdrop. Spaceport America, in southern New Mexico, serves as the home base for many U.S. commercial space flight and rocket launch programs.

Where on Earth is Spaceport America?

Spaceport America is located 180 miles south of Albuquerque near Elephant Butte Lake, and 30 miles east of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It is just west of the vast White Sands Missile Range, which has protected air space. No unauthorized commercial or private aircraft may fly over it. This protected air space provides the perfect place to launch space-bound vehicles and land commercial spacecraft on the adjacent runway, without interrupting normal commercial air traffic. Military aircraft from New Mexico’s three Air Force bases (Holloman, Kirtland and Cannon) use the White Sands Missile Range for flight-training purposes. The first atomic bomb was detonated there in 1945 at the Trinity Site.

History

After winning the Ansari XPrize in 2004, business magnate Richard Branson was approached by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to become the anchor tenant of the new Spaceport. Construction began on the Spaceport runway in August 2009. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority broke ground on the 110,000-square-foot Virgin Galactic terminal hangar facility in March 2010 and is now complete.

SpaceX, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, is a tenant of Spaceport. UP Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace have conducted more than a dozen launches from Spaceport since 2006. In November 2013, a NASA SL-8 Flight Opportunities rocket marked the 20th rocket launch from the Spaceport America Vertical Launch Complex.

Other New Mexico Space Connections

In the 1930s, New Mexico was a hotspot for early pioneers of modern rocketry, including Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun, Colonel John Stapp, and Captain Joseph Kittinger. The New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, New Mexico, provides a detailed experience of New Mexican contributions to rocketry and space exploration.  

The UFO Museum in Roswell offers an overview of an occurrence in 1947, when a flying object landed at a ranch outside Roswell. The "Roswell Incident" generated much speculation; could it have been a UFO? Visit Roswell to learn more about the eerie event and the mysteries of purported UFO phenomena.

Article by Vincent Thomé