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Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez at the dedication ceremony  (Source:
Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez held a dedication ceremony for the new terminal this week

Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Group, launched the world's first commercial space line at a dedication ceremony in southern New Mexico this week alongside New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

Virgin Galactic, a company within Branson's Virgin Group that will offer sub-orbital spaceflights to the public, space science missions and launches of small satellites, will provide space tourism from Spaceport America in a desert in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic and New Mexico officials reached an agreement to build the $209 million spaceport six years ago. Branson hoped the first flight would take place in 2007, but delays have pushed it until 2011.

Approximately 800 guests, 150 of which have already purchased tickets for Virgin Galactic flights, attended the dedication ceremony to watch the flight of jet-powered cargo aircraft WhiteKnightTwo and spacecraft SpaceShipTwo. At the ceremony, Branson officially named the spaceline terminal the "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space."

"Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic," said Branson. "We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century. We've never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way."

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space is a combined terminal and hangar facility with the capacity to hold five SpaceShipTwo vehicles and two WhiteKnightTwo vehicles. It will also hold a mission control center, astronaut preparation facility and a friends and family area. The building is 120,000 square feet and meets LEED Gold standards for environmental quality.

Branson and his two children, Sam and Holly, will be the first commercial passengers on the SpaceShipTwo.

"For me, my children and our ever growing community of future astronauts, many of whom are with us today, standing in front of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space as it glimmers majestically under the New Mexican sun brings our space adventure so close we can almost taste it," said Branson.

Sources: BBC News, Virgin Galactic

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By kattanna on 10/18/2011 10:25:21 AM , Rating: 3
so when does the TSA setup shop and start giving enhanced pat downs for your protection?

By tastyratz on 10/18/2011 10:44:50 AM , Rating: 3
While you did pass it as a joke, in all seriousness I wonder how this kind of travel is regulated. Commercial air travel/airports/etc require tsa presence but what about a single station like this? Does it operate completely as a private sector or is it treated like an airport or what?
Given the high price of tickets (surprised it is not in the article) I would imagine the wealthy are public figures easily screened and passenger volume is less of a concern.

I wonder what regulatory requirements were imposed though...

By saganhill on 10/18/2011 11:49:21 AM , Rating: 2
If Im not mistaken, any carrier that has less than 9 passengers on any of its planes do not have to have a TSA presence. Thats all hearsay of course.

By The Raven on 10/18/2011 11:55:44 AM , Rating: 3
Instead of the TSA they just need a sign that says:
"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"

By stburke on 10/18/2011 5:10:29 PM , Rating: 2
This is a good question. I spent sometime mulling around and I still can't seem to find an answer to this. The only thing I found was 14 CFR 460.53 Which is commercial space transportation -> Human Spaceflight Requirements which says "An operator must implement security requirements to prevent any space flight participant from jeopardizing the safety of the flight crew or the public. A space flight participant may not carry on board any explosives, firearms, knives, or other weapons."

So, I guess that's up for interpretation. If I had to guess I'd say that they would fall under TSA 1544 which regulates Aircraft operator security, commercial operators. Virgin Galactic is essentially essentially that.

By Bob Loblaw on 10/18/2011 11:49:55 AM , Rating: 2
Soon, I hope. They give good "service."

By gwem557 on 10/18/2011 6:48:56 PM , Rating: 2
Ok that made me LoL

By johnsmith9875 on 10/19/2011 10:01:31 AM , Rating: 2
Well since you have to wear a pressure suit, its pretty much a given that you will be almost completely naked at one point in the presence of the guys prepping you for flight.
You may be able to sneak aboard a few keychains like Gus Grissom did, but little else.

62 Mile High Club
By The Raven on 10/18/2011 12:06:52 PM , Rating: 2
They look down on those in the mile high club.

RE: 62 Mile High Club
By cocoapuffer on 10/18/2011 12:31:19 PM , Rating: 2
this is getting too star warsy

RE: 62 Mile High Club
By The Raven on 10/18/2011 2:35:27 PM , Rating: 2
Like when Gilbert took Betty into the moon walk at the carnival... oh yeah!

TriLambs rule!!

By jnemesh on 10/18/2011 1:36:13 PM , Rating: 2
I grew up in Las Cruces, NM, and go home every Christmas. I will DEFINITELY go check out the terminal when I go home this year! Cant wait!

By Strunf on 10/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: Crisis?!
By ZmaxDP on 10/18/2011 11:31:26 AM , Rating: 5
Are you complaining about this? You do realize the construction of this facility and the air/space craft employed and still employs thousands of people? You do realize that every ticket those wealthy enough to afford such a flight goes to pay the salaries of the support staff, engineers, maintenance staff, and janitors at this facility? How else are the wealthy supposed to spread their money around? Do you want them to just give it to you?

I make enough money to live comfortably each month, though mainly because I'm careful with what I have and don't spend beyond my means. My wife and I clear around 50K a year between the two of us after taxes, so don't get all "you're just another wealthy douchebag" on me. I work my ass off for what I have, and everyone else should have to do the same.

I absolutely despise people who try an incite class warfare as if the wealthy spending their money is somehow offensive to the rest of us plebeians. What, do you want the wealthy to keep their money to themselves? That's a great idea. Or, are you so entitled that you think they "owe" it to you? This kind of BS makes me need to vomit.

To Branson and those who can afford a ticket: Keep spending the money and maybe our economy will bounce back eventually. Actually, if you don't mind, spend more of it. Live extravagantly for the next few years. Invest in more startup businesses and entrepreneurs. If you gave a million to charity last year, how about giving that million to a small business investment fund? That is the BEST way to create growth. Those of us out here actually willing to work for a living need that...

RE: Crisis?!
By twhittet on 10/18/2011 12:20:59 PM , Rating: 2
For the most part, I agree - I'd rather the world's rich come to the US to spend rather than going elsewhere.

I do sometimes feel a little bad that so much money is spent on something non-tangible though. It is an experience, but experiences cannot be inherited, they cannot be passed on, they cannot become part of an infrastructure to support future generations. In this way, it does feel that the money could be better spent, but that $ can still "trickle down" to other important uses at least.

The world has a lot of rich people - the US needs more reasons for those people to spend $ here.

RE: Crisis?!
By maven81 on 10/18/2011 1:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
The way I see it this particular endeavor does create a space launch infrastructure though. If you or me are ever going to fly into space, that infrastructure has to be built somehow. This is like the dawn of public air travel, first the flights are something that only the rich can afford, but eventually if the industry takes off prices will come down to the point where even people who aren't super rich can buy a ticket. This is currently the only way it can be done. Of all the things the rich could be spending money on this one actually benefits the rest of us. Just think, they can be using that money to buy a yacht instead, which benefits no one except the yacht building industry, much of which is not based in the US anyway.

RE: Crisis?!
By twhittet on 10/18/2011 2:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I'm not sure offhand that space travel "benefits" anyone that much, though the money spent on R&D should lead to further improvements and discoveries - including those related to other areas.

If only we could get the rich interested in nuclear technology! Is there a way we can market the fountain of youth through cold fusion?

RE: Crisis?!
By Paj on 10/19/2011 9:35:26 AM , Rating: 2
Yep. A thriving space infrastructure will be crucial in the coming century - and bringing launch costs down with re-usable, spaceplane type designs like this one are the key to this.

As this accelerates it will open entirely new industries. Once carrying cargo into orbit becomes cheap, we can start doing amazing things. Building larger craft in orbit that can capture and mine asteroids, to name but one. Microgravity materials science and construction is another with huge possibilities.

RE: Crisis?!
By Masospaghetti on 10/18/2011 2:46:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm just glad the reality of space travel is getting closer. I feel like I've been waiting for it forever!

RE: Crisis?!
By Strunf on 10/19/2011 6:37:11 AM , Rating: 2
You do realize that rich people usually pay less taxes (in terms of %%) than the average Joe, Warren Buffett said he was paying 19% of income taxes while his employees pay 33%, currently he seems to be the black sheep of the super rich family, so basically the guy that spend the most on its basic need (in %%) is also the one paying the most in taxes, do you find that fair???

Also do you even know how much Branson is paying ? from the article on BBC "Sir Richard last visited the $209m Spaceport America - which was partly financed by taxpayers - nearly a year ago to celebrate the completion of the runway."
Why should the taxpayer get to pay the tax increase AND pay for the hobby of some?? on the long run this "space port" may turn profitable for the society in general but TODAY there are better ways to do so.

RE: Crisis?!
By johnsmith9875 on 10/19/2011 10:02:38 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for that comment, supply-side jesus.

RE: Crisis?!
By Suntan on 10/18/2011 12:11:41 PM , Rating: 5
Those problems you cite do not apply to me *because* I live with limits to my spending.


RE: Crisis?!
By Strunf on 10/19/2011 6:03:21 AM , Rating: 2
Funny last time I checked the increase in taxes, reduction of spending/ work force concerned everyone, but hey maybe you are one of the lucky ones that don't even pay taxes...

It would pretty cool that what you say would be close to the reality but it isn't the case, even people that live within there limits will have to pay the bail out of the banks and other perks.

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