Facility Layout Showcases The Land... And The Stars
A team of US and British architects and designers, accompanied
by officials from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) and
Virgin Galactic, unveiled design renderings of Spaceport America at
a September 4 press conference in Las Cruces, NM. Construction on
the 100,000 square-foot hangar and terminal facility near the
community of Upham is scheduled to begin in 2008.
The design is from a US-British consortium of URS Corporation
and Foster + Partners. They created a low-lying design that uses
natural earth as a berm, and relies on passive energy for heating
and cooling, with photovoltaic panels for electricity and water
A rolling concrete shell acts as a roof, with massive windows
opening to views of the runway and spacecraft.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the dynamic team
chosen to design the world’s first space terminal," said Lord
Foster, founder of United Kingdom architectural firm Foster +
Partners. "This technically complex building will not only provide
a dramatic experience for the astronauts and visitors, but will set
an ecologically sound model for future Spaceport facilities."
Billed as the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport,
officials say the facility is designed to convey the thrill of
space travel while making a minimal impact on the environment. The
low-lying, organic shape is meant to signify a rise in the
landscape, and will use local materials and regional construction
Visitors and astronauts will enter the building through a deep
channel cut in the landscape. The walls will form an exhibition
area leading to a galleried level above the hangar that houses the
spacecraft, and on through to the terminal building. Natural light
enters via skylights, with a glazed façade reserved for the
terminal building -- establishing a platform for spectacular views
onto the runway.
Kelly O’Donnell, Chair of the NMSA, is pleased with the
design of the hangar and terminal facility. "The design created by
the URS/Foster team is outstanding in the way it blends in with the
environment, creating a shape that is both distinctive and
functional while complementing the landscape," O’Donnell
"The URS team is very pleased to have been selected for this
breakthrough project," said Jens Deichmann, vice president of URS
Corporation. "Our team of New Mexico, regional, and international
talent is excited to help the State of New Mexico and Virgin
Galactic advance their goals of commercial space travel and
scientific and engineering education."
Designed to have minimal embodied carbon and few additional
energy requirements, the spaceport has been planned to achieve the
prestigious LEED Platinum accreditation. The low-lying form is dug
into the landscape to exploit thermal mass, which buffers the
building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as
catching the predominently westerly winds for ventilation.
The terminal and hangar facility are projected to cost about $31
million, and will provide a destination experience for visitors to
Spaceport America. It will include Virgin Galactic’s
pre-flight and post-flight training facilities and lounges, as well
as the maintenance hangar for two White Knight 2 and five
SpaceshipTwo aircraft. The building will also be home to the NMSA,
and provide a destination experience for visitors.
"I am delighted that New Mexico has chosen this excellent team
to design Spaceport America," said Sir Richard Branson of Virgin
Galactic. "Their track record is exciting enough, but the vision
for the world’s first purpose-built private spaceport is
truly out of this world... Next year will see the first test
flights of SpaceshipTwo and it is fantastic that we will now have a
permanent home to go to, which will be every bit as inspiring for
the astronauts of the future as Burt Rutan’s groundbreaking
NMSA is currently finalizing contract negotiations with URS and
Foster + Partners. The team will then begin working with the NMSA
and Virgin Galactic to finalize the design of the facility, and the
NMSA expects to put the construction of the facility out for bids
in the first half of 2008.
Construction of Spaceport America will begin in 2008,
immediately after the FAA issues the site operator’s license
to the NMSA. Completion is expected in late 2009 or early 2010.