The dream of a functioning spaceport where spaceships take off and land like it’s no big deal is closer than ever before. But if the barren, empty Spaceport America is any indication, we’ve still got a long way to go.
Constructed in the New Mexico desert, the facility billing itself as the world’s first commercial spaceport was supposed to be the first step on our path to science fiction future, but a number of setbacks and unforeseen disasters mean that this galactic transit hub is eerily quiet. The majority of the construction on the multi-million dollar facility was completed by 2012, with the large terminal building dominating the landscape of the spaceport, along with the 12,000-foot runway.
By 2013 both Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, two of the largest players in the commercial space travel business had become tenants of the port, and it seemed like things were looking up. Unfortunately, in October 2014, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke up in flight, killing one of the pilots and putting the future of the company’s projects—and, by extension, the spaceport itself—in jeopardy.
The visitor’s center in Truth or Consequences opened to the general public in June 2015. In August 2019, when Virgin Galactic completed its interior buildout, the entire facility was deemed ready for operations. On May 21, 2021, Virgin Galactic saw its first successful crewed spaceflight, with the launch of the VSS Unity and its crew of three people.