Virgin's plans for submerged spaceport hit rock bottom

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Geological studies scupper cosmic tourism pioneer's underground mission control

Virgin Galactic has abandoned plans for an underground facility for its White Knight 2/Space-ShipTwo (WK2/SS2) sub-orbital launch system at New Mexico's Spaceport America. Geological studies have found that the proposed site's bedrock means the space tourism provider will only be able to partially submerge its facility.

The underground base was to house the WK2 and SS2 vehicles and act as the company's mission control and corporate world headquarters. It was to be covered by a dome featuring environmentally friendly elements such as collection of rainwater and solar energy.

"We will still have a dome it will be like [London's] Millennium Dome," says Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn.

The dome's roof is still likely to collect water and have solar panels. The design, unveiled in December 2005, has a roof that looks like a human iris - a key feature of the company's logo.

The British National Space Centre has delayed to early next year public consultation on a UK licensing system for commercial launch services, which will include space tourism (Flight International, 27 June-3 July).

The consultation, which was planned for this quarter, has been delayed following internal discussions.


© Virgin Galactic
Examination of the site's bedrock has negated the company's original headquarters design blueprint