Virgin Galactic CEO optimistic about Spaceport America future

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Everything at Spaceport America hasn’t taken off as planned. From delays to finances, New Mexico has yet to launch its first tourist into space. But the head of the biggest tenant, Virgin Galactic, came to Albuquerque with an optimistic message.

George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic, said, “I’ll launch right into it.” With that fitting expression, he began his presentation before the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

“Obviously, the last few months have been a challenging time for the company, but we feel like we’ve really moved past that,” he said, referring to last October’s rocket ship explosion in the Mojave Desert. Investigators determined that deadly crash was caused by a co-pilot error.

“We’re making good progress on the second spaceship,” Whitesides said.

He told the audience that the NTSB has cleared the vehicle. The next steps would be the test flight program and eventually blasting off with commercial operations from Spaceport America.

“Our rollout, we are pushing to achieve as soon as we can,” he said.

An exact timeline wasn’t announced. Whitesides declined KRQE News 13’s request for a one-on-one interview.

Others granted interviews to express their optimism.

Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said, “When it’s successful, it will be a huge success in a global marketplace.”

“We’re looking at a new frontier here,” she added.

Christine Anderson, CEO of Spaceport America, also remains optimistic.

“We’re at a fabulous point now. We’re expanding our business base,” Anderson said.

Just like an airport, she said the Spaceport will add tenants. They also are expanding their north campus, encouraging sixth graders in New Mexico to pursue math and science, and hoping for more photo and film shoots, even luxury weddings.

“Come visit, come visit Spaceport America. This is really important. This is our Spaceport,” Anderson reiterated to New Mexico residents.

She said Spaceport America is hosting its first-ever public open house on Saturday, October 3. Reservations are required. 

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