Spaceport America officially opened in 2011 with a big-name celebrity tenant: British entrepreneur Richard Branson and his company, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial “spaceline” that promises to give customers a brief ride into space. After moving their space fleet, which includes WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo, from its Mojave, California facility to New Mexico in February 2020, Virgin Galactic has launched its first human test flight from New Mexico, bringing the future of space tourism one step closer.
To achieve spaceflight, the WhiteKnightTwo completes a conventional takeoff from the 2.25-mile-long spaceway, climbing to 50,000 feet with SpaceShipTwo attached. Then SpaceShipTwo is released, firing a motor that pitches it into a near vertical climb and propels it at 3.5 times the speed of sound toward the inky dark of space.
At more than 50 miles above Earth, the pilots shut off the rocket motor, allowing passengers to leave their seats and enjoy several minutes of weightlessness. Gravity soon pulls the ship back toward Earth, and at 50,000 feet the pilots initiate a dynamic glide to the Spaceport America runway.
Learn more about space exploration and the future of space tourism in New Mexico here.
Learn more about the ship that’s making space tourism a reality with this infographic below courtesy of New Mexico Magazine