Feeds

Branson breaks ground on US rocketplane spaceport

WhiteKnightTwo makes emergency landing

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Construction has begun on Richard Branson's multi-million-dollar rocketplane spaceport in the remote high-desert of southern New Mexico.

The Brit billionaire along with local dignitaries held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, featuring a launch of model rockets, historic reenactors dressed as Spanish colonials*, and a road grader leveling a symbolic patch of the desert floor.

When construction of Spaceport America is complete, Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic will begin launching passengers into suborbital space, where they will briefly experience weightlessness for $200,000 (~ £121,075) a ride**.

"After all the hard work to get this project off the ground, it is gratifying to see Spaceport America finally become a reality," Richardson said. "This groundbreaking ceremony is an important step toward our goal of being at the forefront of a vibrant new, commercial space industry."

The $198m state-funded construction project for Spaceport America is slated for completion late next year. The spaceport's 10,000-foot (3,048 meter) runway is expected to be finished next summer, and its terminal and hangar should be ready for tenants in December 2010.

State officials hope the spaceport will provide a big economic boost to New Mexico and provide long-term jobs in science, math, and high tech industries.

Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, is investing about $250m into the deal and will become the spaceport's principal tenant.

Virgin's officials said about 300 customers have already made down payments for a sub-orbital cruise.

WhiteKnight Two makes emergency landing

But there was one important guest missing from Friday's ceremony.

WhiteKnightTwo, the prototype "mothership" carrier jet designed to launch Virgin's commercial spacecraft, was forced to make an emergency landing while en route to the ceremony.

The aircraft made its unexpected landing at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport in Arizona after an actuator warning light came on, The Arizona Republic reports. WhiteKnight Two was scheduled to fly over the groundbreaking ceremony.

The two pilots aboard were not injured and reportedly asked airport authorities not to allow pictures be taken of the grounded WhiteKnightTwo by nearby photographers who were tracking test aircraft at Mesa.

Their request went unheeded, however, as the officials had no authority to stop photos being snapped from outside the airport's secured areas. ®

*Americans have inherited the British obsession with costumed historic reenactment and thus are required at all public events.

**To accurately re-create this sensation at home for less, simply toss $199,999 in cash out the window. You'll soon realize you've lost your sense of gravity completely.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.