The world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport is taking shape in New Mexico as development continues on privately funded, civilian spacecraft which will launch from the facility. Spaceport America, located in Upham NM, 30 miles east of Truth or Consequences, has been under construction since 2007 with formal ground breaking ceremonies occurring in June 2009.
The facility will enable the launching of both manned and unmanned systems with pads for vertical launch capabilities as well as a 10,000 foot concrete runway for horizontal takeoffs and landings for spacecraft such as Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnight2/SpaceShipTwocombination. Three concrete pads were recently completed for use in NASA’s 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Centennial Challenge competition. Spacecraft will attempt to takeoff and land vertically in a simulated lunar landing. Several teams are competing for a total of $1.65M in prize money for successfully completing 180 seconds of powered flight followed by a precision landing on one of the pads.
Several launches have occurred at the facility since the project was announced in 2005 with the most recent being a UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL sounding rocket carrying a New Mexico student payload. The launch, which occurred on May 2nd, 2009, failed to reach its projected altitude.