Virgin Galactic inaugurates spaceport

Washington DC
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Virgin Galactic has formally inaugurated Spaceport America, from which the company plans to begin suborbital flights into space in 2012.

The 17 October ceremony at the spaceport, near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, featured dancers on rappelling ropes and a flyby from WhiteKnightTwo, with SpaceShipTwo underslung.

Roughly 800 people attended the inauguration, according to Virgin Galactic. Various celebrities from the space world, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin and space shuttle pilot Julie Payette, were in attendance. Also present were an estimated 150 Virgin Galactic ticket holders. Richard Branson, the company's chief investor, rappelled down with the dance troupe and formally christened the facility halfway to the ground.

The private spaceport, which is closed to unapproved air- or spacecraft, has no formal role in spacecraft testing. The October dedication ceremony marks only the second landing by WhiteKnightTwo. Major parts of the facility, including the flight operations building and hanger offices, remain under construction.