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Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

The world’s first private spaceport, designed by Foster + Partners, has opened in New Mexico.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners


October 19th, 2011

5 years in the making, the world’s first private spaceport was officially opened on October 17, dubbed Virgin Galactic’s ’Gateway to Space’.


Photo by Mark Greenberg

Foster + Partners, in collaboration with URS Corporation and SMPC Architects, designed the terminal and hangar facility at Spaceport America in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in the New Mexico desert.

The low-lying structure has an organic form, designed to rise out of the landscape.


Image courtesy Foster + Partners

Entry to the facility is via a deep channel cut into the earth. The retaining walls act as a gallery or exhibition space, documenting the history of the region as well as the history of space travel.


Image courtesy Foster + Partners


Image courtesy of Gadling

“The sinuous shape of the building in the landscape and its interior spaces seek to capture the drama and mystery of space flight itself, articulating the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists,” said the architects in their project statement.

Areas for astronauts and visitors are integrated with the rest of the building for maximum visibility. More private areas, such as the control room, are visible to the public but not accessible. The glazed façade of the terminal building offers views onto the runway.


Image courtesy Foster + Partners


Image courtesy of Gadling

The facility was designed to meet LEED Gold accreditation. Dug into the landscape, the building is protected from the harsh New Mexico climate and exploits the soil’s thermal mass. Skylights let in natural light, and geothermal heating and cooling minimise additional energy requirements.

Over 450 people have already signed up for space voyages from the facility, with tickets going for just US200,000 a pop! Testing on Virgin Atlantic’s spacecraft will continue throughout 2012, after which Virgin Atlantic is expected to start shooting wanna-be astronauts off onto their 2.5 hour journey into space.

Foster + Partners

SMPC Architects

URS Corporation

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