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The world's first commercial spaceport is ready for business, with Sir Richard Branson this week opening the home of his Virgin Galactic operation at 'Spaceport America'.
Of course, merely cutting a red ribbon isn't Branson's style – the billionaire rappelled down the side of the suitably space-aged building and broke a bottle of champagne against it (after first taking a few sips himself).
Branson hopes to launch the first Virgin Galactic flight from the spaceport by the end of next year, and has already sold over 400 tickets for the ride at $200,000 per seat.
But the real prize is a return to the superfast era of the Concorde, only this time even quicker, with scheduled sub-orbital shuttles to whisk you from Sydney to London in four hours.
As Australian Business Traveller reported earlier this year, Brett Godfrey – former founding CEO of Virgin Blue, long-time Branson buddy and holder of one of those seats into space – believes that sub-orbital services will be "the next level" beyond supersonic, with substantial appeal to business travellers.
"In another 10 or 15 years it will be $20,000 -- it will be no more than a first-class ticket somewhere" Godfrey says, "and then eventually they will be able to get a slightly bigger rocket with a bit more fuel and they'll be able to get it so it goes trans-con and then around the world. It may not be in my lifetime that it goes commercial but I think it probably will."
Inside Spaceport America
Located in the New Mexico desert, Spaceport America will serve as the operations hub for Virgin Galactic.
The 11,000 square metre building has been designed by UK-based architectural firm Foster + Partners (who kindly provided AusBT with these extraordinary photos and design concepts).
The terminal is dug into the landscape to buffer the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation, while solar panels line the roof.
Seen from above, it should be just one of many spectacular sights on the sub-orbital journey.
It will house up to two 'White Knight Two' transporters, which soar into space cradling the smaller 'SpaceShipTwo' passenger craft.
The facility can also accommodate five of the Space Ship Two shuttles, so that the spaceport can reach its full commercial capacity.
The Spaceport also contains astronaut preparation facilities and mission control.
The entrance to the spaceport terminal is via a deep channel cut into the landscape, with the retaining walls forming an exhibition space which documents the history of space exploration.
It's also pretty schmick inside the terminal.
Other eye-catching airport designs featured on Australian Business Traveller...
- New York's stunning TWA Terminal looks like something from The Jetsons, except it was built in the 1960s!
- Kuwait's amazing 'mega-hub' airport will challenge Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports for supremacy in the middle-east
- Photo gallery: the stunning new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport is set to open on June 3rd