Branson marks spaceport milestone
Sir Richard Branson shook up a big bottle of champagne and took a swig while christening the world's first built-from-scratch commercial spaceport.
Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic will stage its commercial space tourism venture from Spaceport America in a remote patch of desert in southern New Mexico.
Sir Richard was joined by Governor Susana Martinez, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and scores of would-be space travellers at the terminal-hangar for the dedication.
It had been nearly a year since Sir Richard was in New Mexico to celebrate the completion of the runway.
"The building is absolutely magnificent," he said. "It is literally out of this world, and that's what we were aiming at creating."
With the spaceport and mothership completed, the company is now finalising its rocket tests.
"We're ticking the final boxes on the way to space," Sir Richard said.
He hopes enough powered test flights of Virgin Galactic's sleek spacecraft can be done by the end of 2012 to start commercial suborbital flights from the spaceport soon after.
More than 450 people have purchased tickets to fly with Virgin Galactic. About 150 of them attended the ceremony. Before getting to enter the hangar, the crowd was treated to a flyover by WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership that one day will help take space tourists on suborbital flights.
The spaceport will be a launch station for people and payloads on the rocket ships being developed for Virgin Galactic. With custom metal panelling and massive panes of glass, the state-of-the-art terminal rises from the desert floor to face the nearly two-mile concrete runway.