Runway at world’s first commercial spaceport ready

October 23rd, 2010 - 12:32 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 23 (IANS) A runway at the world’s first commercial spaceport in New Mexico is complete and space tourists are expected to take flight in 18 months, with British industrialist Richard Branson likely to be among them, says a media report.

The Spaceport America in New Mexico desert is the world’s first facility designed to launch commercial spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and prospective astronauts Friday celebrated the completion of the two-mile long runway, express.co.uk reported.

Branson called it an emotional and historic day and said he expects flights for space tourists to begin in nine to 18 months - and he will be among the first passengers.

Stretching across a flat dusty plain 45 miles north of Las Cruces, the runway is designed to support almost every aircraft in the world.

Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant of the taxpayer-funded spaceport and plans to use the facility to take tourists on what will first be short hops into space.

Virgin Galactic’s bullet-shaped spacecraft - SpaceShipTwo - also made an appearance, carried high over the barren landscape by its special jet-powered mothership, White Knight Two. Both vehicles made several passes over the spaceport as they returned to Earth.

Tickets for suborbital space rides aboard SpaceShipTwo cost $200,000. The two-and-a-half hour flights will include about five minutes of weightlessness. Some 380 customers have already made deposits totalling more than $50 million, Virgin Galactic officials said.

Until now, space travel has been limited to astronauts and a handful of wealthy people who have shelled out millions to ride Russian rockets to the International Space Station.

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