Virgin Galactic and Transformational Space set to benefit from New Mexico investment

Virgin Galactic is set to strengthen its bid to lead the pack of competing suborbital tourism providers with an investment of up to $20 million from the state of New Mexico and a leading role in the relaunched Personal Spaceflight Federation (PSF) trade body.

Alex Tai, Virgin Galactic's senior vice-president for operations, has become PSF chairman. Relaunched this week with more members, new officers and staff, the trade body has been in discussion with the US Federal Aviation Administration's commercial space transport office about proposed rules for human spaceflight and experimental permits for reusable suborbital rockets.

The final decision on the rules for both is expected later this year. Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, may also receive up to $20 million from New Mexico's State Investment Council (SIC), which is carrying out a due diligence investigation of the company. "We are optimistic of a partnership. We expect a decision later this year. Discussions began earlier this year. The investment could be up to $20 million," says the SIC.

The state of New Mexico is developing its Spaceport America facility, which Virgin Galactic is expected to use from 2009. PSF member Transformational Space (T/space) may also benefit from New Mexico SIC investment. T/space gained provisional approval for SIC funding in February, contingent on it winning a US government contract worth $100 million or more.

T/space is a finalist for NASA's four-year, $500 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration programme alongside three other PSF member companies: Rocketplane-Kistler, Spacedev and Space Exploration Technologies. The award of COTS contracts was expected to be announced on 18 August. The remaining PSF member companies are AirLaunch, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, the Mojave Spaceport, Scaled Composites, New Mexico's Spaceport America, Space Adventures, Xcor Aerospace and the X Prize Foundation.

Read Rob Coppinger's blog on how the world's handful of space tourism competitors have come together despite the tensions that could exist amongst them

Source: Flight International