GOLDEN, Colorado -- Architectural and engineering teams have begun shaping the look and feel of New Mexico's Spaceport America, taking the wraps off new images today that showcase the curb appeal of the sprawling main terminal and hangar at the futuristic facility.
Last month, a team of U.S. and British architects and designers had been recommended for award to design the primary terminal and hangar facility at Spaceport America - structures that symbolize the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport.
When the 100,000 square-foot (9,290 square-meter) facility is completed -- the centerpiece of the world's first, purpose-built, commercial spaceport -- the structures will serve as the primary operating base for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceliner, and also as the headquarters for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
The terminal and hangar facility will also provide room for aircraft and spacecraft, and Virgin Galactic's operations facilities, including pre-flight and post-flight facilities, administrative offices, and lounges. The spacious maintenance hangar can hold two White Knight Two carrier aircraft and five SpaceShipTwo spaceliners - vessels now under construction at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California.
The terminal and hangar facility are projected to cost about $31 million, and will provide a "Destination Experience" for visitors to Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic intends to sign a 20-year lease for approximately 84,000 square feet (7,803 square meters) in the building.
"The URS/Foster team presented us with a concept that blends sensitivity to the environment, cutting-edge technology and a stunning image and shape when viewed from high above," noted Kelly O'Donnell, chair of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in a press statement last month.
The design chosen is a low-lying, striking bit of construction that uses natural earth as a berm, and relies on passive energy for heating and cooling, with photovoltaic panels for electricity and water recycling capabilities. A rolling concrete shell acts as a roof with massive windows opening to a view of the runway and spacecraft.
According to a press statement, the low-lying, organic shape resembles a rise in the landscape, and will use local materials and regional construction techniques.
"A careful balance between accessibility and privacy is achieved, as visitors and astronauts enter the building through a deep channel cut in the landscape," the statement noted. "The walls will form an exhibition area leading to a galleried level above the hangar that houses the spacecraft and on through to the terminal building. Natural light enters via skylights, with a glazed façade reserved for the terminal building, establishing a platform for spectacular views onto the runway."
Construction on the 100,000 square-foot hangar and terminal facility is scheduled to begin in 2008.
WOW... I can't wait to check this place out when it's finished! I think I'll take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to space tourism. I'd like to have a destination other than "fly into space, enjoy the view and float around for a few minutes, fly home." Maybe these guys need to build a space station resort as the destination, then I'll go.
Be sure to check out the official Spaceport American website!