TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Spaceport America’s biggest tenant still hasn’t arrived. Virgin Galactic has pushed back the date of its first commercial flight to space yet again, which means a longer wait until the Spaceport starts seeing any payoff. It is now years overdue, but Spaceport officials said it takes time when you are making history and it will definitely be worth the wait.
Initial plans had Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight taking off three years ago, and it has been a moving target ever since, eventually pushing the deadline back to February of this year, then August, and now.
“I’ll be on the first flight from New Mexico,” Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson told David Letterman two weeks ago. When asked when that will take place, he said, “February or March of next year.”
In the meantime, at the $230 million Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, it’s a waiting game. Executive Director Christine Anderson said the Spaceport has had to slow the pace of preparation because they are not yet seeing the payoff in their budget.
“It is a matching game. I mean, it’s just like any other company matching up your revenues with your expenditures, so we’re carefully managing our expenditures so we can accommodate that as best we can,” Anderson said.
Those in the space tourism industry, like the founder of the Space Tourism Society, say it will be good news for New Mexico in the long-term despite the delays.
“It is frustrating but a lot of times, important things are worth the wait,” said John Spencer, founder of the Space Tourism Society. “As an investment in the future, New Mexico has done a very smart thing and very good job.”
Virgin Galactic is still in the midst of testing. The company had a training mission in New Mexico two weeks ago, flying its plane that will launch the spaceship into the edge of space.
“They are making preparations and they’re continuing they’re flight testing and we’ll be eagerly awaiting when they get here,” Anderson said.
Branson said there are 800 people signed up for the space flights so far. Tickets cost a quarter of a million dollars.