Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system flies above New Mexico's Spaceport America. Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system flies above New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

 

 

 

Ready and awaiting the arrival of increased space traffic is Spaceport America – situated in a sweeping desert setting in New Mexico.

Spaceport America continues to make preparations for upcoming launch operations of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system.

The SpaceX Falcon 9R rocket will be the largest ever to fly from Spaceport America.

As the new launch complex nears completion, the technical team is reviewing and refining preparation and launch day plans and procedures.

Grasshopper technology demonstrator for use in SpaceX's Falcon 9-R has repeatedly flown to various altitudes at the firm’s test site in McGregor, Texas. Credit: SpaceX

Grasshopper technology demonstrator for use in SpaceX’s Falcon 9-R has repeatedly flown to various altitudes at the firm’s test site in McGregor, Texas.
Credit: SpaceX

“R” for reusable

The Falcon 9-R, “R” for reusable, is a partially-reusable variant of the SpaceX Falcon 9. It is being developed using systems and software tested on the Grasshopper technology demonstrator that has repeatedly flown to various altitudes at the firm’s test site in McGregor, Texas.

SpaceX construction at New Mexico’s Spaceport America is utilizing more than 20 local firms, spending approximately $2 million so far.

Items include refining the formal Range Operations Plan and ensuring that the spaceport is in compliance with New Mexico open burning regulations. Several fire prevention measures have been added, such as a vegetation-free buffer and fire breaks around the edges of the launch and landing pads.

Suborbital spaceliner

For its part, Virgin Galactic is continuing work on “fit out” construction activities for the Gateway facility at Spaceport America.

This facility will handle operations of the commercial suborbital spaceliner – a craft capable of carrying two pilots, six “pay per view” passengers.

With respect to Virgin Galactic, the technical team has been refining an Airfield Operations Plan, according to Spaceport America officials.

Recently, a three-party Letter of Agreement (Virgin Galactic-FAA Albuquerque Center-Spaceport America) — required by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation — was finalized.

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