Gallery: Foster + Partners Break Ground on Virgin Galactic Spaceport

spaceport america, new mexico, groundbreaking, LEED, space launch

It’s an exciting time for space fanatics everywhere as construction recently began on the world’s first commercial space launch pad, Spaceport America. Designed by Foster + Partners, the facility is located in southern New Mexico near the White Sands Missile Range and will serve as a launch site for private space travel. Built into the side of a hill, the Spaceport will meet LEED building standards and includes some high-tech green building strategies including a solar roof, excellent use of thermal mass, and a highly efficient HVAC system.

Virgin Galactic, part of the Virgin Group run by Richard Branson, commissioned the Spaceport from Foster + Partners, and has invested over $300 million to develop the new space launch system. Their plans are to have their first private space launch by 2011. 300 passengers have already signed up for their space flight and paid their $200,000 for the privilege. Additionally, when completed, Spaceport America will serve as the official venue for the X Prize competitions.

Built into the side of a hill, the Spaceport will use the thermal mass of the surrounding earth to moderate the hot and cold desert temperatures. Earth-tubes will pre-condition air to reduce HVAC costs by 50-70% and solar thermal panels on the roof will heat water. The 110,000 square foot facility will also use skylights and natural ventilation to achieve greater energy efficiency.

On top of the new construction being über cool and exciting, Spaceport America isn’t too far away from famed Roswell, NM, known for the recovery of a UFO. The proximity of the two space sites will help boost interest in southern New Mexico as tourists travel to see the historical spot as well as the future-forward space launch site.

Executive Director Steve Landeene of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) said, “The groundbreaking for Spaceport America is the beginning of a historic new chapter in New Mexico’s long legacy of space and cutting-edge technology. From the pioneering rocketry work of Robert J. Goddard in New Mexico in 1930, the beginnings of America’s space program in the 1940’s and 50’s to the ongoing NASA programs at White Sands Missile Range and now to Spaceport America, the Gateway to the Future.”

+ Foster + Partners

+ Spaceport America

Via Core77 and World Architecture News


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  1. masonstorm November 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it’s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is “we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,” they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense… it’s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn’t for nasa, we wouldn’t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things ( has a good number of inventions that most of us don’t know came from our space program). And if you’re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don’t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa’s research (just look at the adt home security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)

  2. Foster + Partners Unvei... October 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    […] its way to hosting the world’s first commercial passenger spaceport as Foster + Partners’ Spaceport America was dedicated this weekend. A partnership between the state of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic, the […]

  3. Niwich June 24, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    “Spaceport America isn’t too far away from famed Roswell, NM, known for the recovery of a UFO.”

    You say it as if you know it is true.

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