Spaceport America’s beginnings
In the early 1990s, a group of space-minded New Mexicans saw the potential future of the commercial space industry and joined together to form the Southwest Space Task Force to promote the State of New Mexico as a location to develop an FAA-approved spaceport. From this early effort, the New Mexico Legislature first established the Office for Space Commercialization in 1994. In June of that year, the group formally identified the parcel of state land that would eventually become the site of Spaceport America.
The spaceport effort pursued various potential markets, ranging from capsule return to single-stage-to-orbit vehicles, and the site was even selected by Lockheed Martin as the home of the X-33 VentureStar reusable spaceplane. Following the end of that program in 2001, the group became focused on fully reusable suborbital vehicles and pursuit of the X PRIZE CUP.
When former-Governor Bill Richardson’s administration took office in 2003, members of the Southwest Space Task Force went to then-Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Rick Homans and briefed him on the merits of the idea of building a spaceport located in southern New Mexico. Homans took the idea of a New Mexico spaceport to the former Governor, who then spearheaded legislation in 2005 to finance the spaceport by the State of New Mexico. Spaceport America began initial launch operations in 2006. Spaceport America is expected to complete its $209 million construction in 2013.
Spaceport America milestones
Spaceport America introduces a new brand image to the world
NMSA launches a new visual identity, signaling a renewed effort to introduce Spaceport America to the world on July 4, 2012.
Spaceport America hires full complement of support contractors for pre-operations
NMSA executes contracts with local companies for all necessary Protective, General, IT, and Space Operations services at Spaceport America to develop operating policies and procedures in preparations for full horizontal and vertical flight operations.
Armadillo Aerospace launches four flights from Spaceport America
Armadillo Aerospace makes a series of flights from Spaceport America’s lunar lander pads spanning April to December 2011 with their STIG A, STIG A-II, and SuperMod vehicles.
Spaceport America preview tours begin
NMSA officials establish paid public preview tours of the Spaceport America construction site beginning May 13, 2011, through local NM operator ‘Follow the Sun’.
Spaceport America dedicates the Terminal Hangar Facility
Governor Susana Martinez, Sir Richard Branson and others gather to dedicate the near-complete terminal hangar facility, christened the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.” WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo overnight inside the facility for the first time.
Spaceport America Runway Dedication
Former-Governor Bill Richardson, Sir Richard Branson, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and others gather to dedicate the completed airfield and 10,000-ft runway or “Spaceway” at Spaceport America. WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo land at Spaceport America for the first time.
New Mexico passes Space Flight Informed Consent Act
The New Mexico legislature approves new liability protections for space flight operators within the state, allowing space flight participants to hold harmless the operator in the event of an accident.
Spaceport Spaceway Construction Begins
David Montoya Construction begins the construction of the 10,000 foot by 200 foot Spaceport America spaceway in August of 2009. Image courtesy Mark Greenberg.
Spaceport America holds Groundbreaking
Hundreds gather to commemorate the start of the construction project during the Spaceport America groundbreaking ceremonies on June 19, 2009. Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo mothership “Eve” flies over the Las Cruces, NM, International airport on June 20, 2009.
Spaceport America sponsors first annual Education Launch
The NMSA, UP Aerospace and the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium host an education launch for students at Spaceport America on May 2, 2009. The program provides New Mexico students the opportunity to design and launch scientific experiments into space.
Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic Sign Historic Lease Agreement
Virgin Galactic signs a 20-year lease agreement with the State of New Mexico on December 31, 2008. Virgin Galactic’s world headquarters will be established in New Mexico and its operations will be located at Spaceport America.
FAA awards Spaceport America Launch Site Operator License
The NMSA receives its launch license for vertical launch activity from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) on December 15, 2008.
Sierra County spaceport tax referendum passes
On April 22, 2008, Sierra County voters pass a spaceport tax referendum providing $2.4 million of the $209 million construction funding for Spaceport America.
Spaceport America selects design concepts
On September 4, 2007, the NMSA unveils Spaceport America design concepts created by URS/Foster + Partners to the world.
Doña Ana County spaceport tax referendum passes
On April 3, 2007, Doña Ana County voters pass a spaceport tax referendum providing $49 million of the $209 million construction funding for Spaceport America.
The Spaceport America brand announcement
The State of New Mexico unveils the Spaceport America brand at the Farnborough International Airshow on July 17, 2006.
UP Aerospace launches first rocket from Spaceport America
On September 25, 2006, UP Aerospace launches their first space vehicle, the SL-1 rocket, from the newly constructed Launch Complex One at Spaceport America.
Partnership provides 18,000 acres for Spaceport Americs
On December 11, 2006, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA), the State Land Office, Sierra County and two ranch owners sign agreements that provide 18,000 acres of state trust land for Spaceport America.
Virgin Galactic World Headquarters locates in New Mexico
Former-Governor Richardson and Sir Richard Branson announce a partnership to locate Virgin Galactic World Headquarters at a new spaceport in New Mexico on December 14, 2005.
New Mexico Legislature enacts laws providing for Spaceport America
Former-Governor Richardson and the New Mexico Legislature enact laws providing for the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport.
New Mexico wins bid to host X PRIZE CUP
On May 11, 2004, Former-Governor Richardson announces that New Mexico had officially won its bid to host the X PRIZE CUP, an international space exhibition destined to energize the state’s economy through tourism, global public interest and significant job growth. The first annual X PRIZE CUP occurs in Las Cruces, NM, on October 6 through 9, 2005, and as many as 20,000 people attend.