Spaceport America Construction Begins: We'll All Be Space Cowboys Soon!
Construction on the first American spaceport is now fully underway 45 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. To be fair, this is not the first landing strip with the ability to handle a returning space shuttle. NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, Runway 12/30 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the Mojave Air and Space Port have all accommodated landing spacecraft. But the Spaceport America will be the first dedicated port for commercial space flights, such as Sir Richard Branson's pioneering Virgin Galactic brand.
The runway should be completed by August of this year, but could be finished as early as June. Measuring 10,000 feet long by 200 feet wide (which is actually a bit smaller than the strips at large international airports handling jumbo jets) the tarmac sits between Kirtland Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base, and right next to the White Sands Missile Range. This means that testing flights will have the option of flying in restricted or national airspace without interference from commercial aircraft. A dedicated runway also means that mixed-company ports like Mojave Air and Space Port won't have to shut down runways for returning suborbital jaunts.
More plans are underway to extend Spaceport America's landing strip and even build another cross-wind runway to support all necessary types of landings. But Steve Landeene, Executive Director for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, says that the current setup is sufficient for testing needs. So, actually, we think we'd rather wait until all the safety measures are hammered out because, for some of us, flying in a staid old airplane through our familiar oxygenated atmosphere can be terrifying as it is. [From: FOX News]