Virgin Galactic is not only building an astronaut training hub in New Mexico for civilians but expanding its fleet of spaceships, too. Rose Dykins reports
Virgin Galactic has announced plans to create an astronaut campus and training facility in Sierra Country in the State of New Mexico.
The astronaut campus is an extension of the Virgin Galactic customer journey. It will used exclusively by Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts and up to three of their guests in advance of their spaceflight from Spaceport America.
Situated close to Virgin Galactic’s commercial headquarters near Spaceport America, the campus will overlook New Mexico’s breathtaking desert landscape.
It will have training facilities, accommodation, an observatory, a wellness centre, recreation activities, “unique” dining options and will offer bespoke experiences underpinned by Virgin’s brand of hospitality.
The campus will focus on upholding sustainability and having minimal impact on its the surrounding environment. The design of the project will embrace water re-use and conservation; eco-friendly materials, and low carbon mobility as key considerations.
In terms of stylistic features, the design touchpoints of the campus are bold simplicity, function, innovation, and emotional connectivity, while paying homage to the region’s spectacular natural beauty.
Blair Rich, Virgin Galactic’s president and chief business officer of commercial and consumer operations, says: “At Virgin Galactic, the road to space begins in New Mexico, and we are proud to showcase the state as the launch point for our unique and unparalleled experience.”
“From the point of sale, our Future Astronauts begin a journey that is curated, high-touch and distinctly Virgin, which will culminate at the astronaut campus and training facility. Customers who buy a ticket today will stay and train here, along with their guests, for five nights.
“While our Future Astronauts are completing spaceflight training, their guests will live out a tailored itinerary of discovery and educational experiences on the campus and throughout southern New Mexico.”
Conceptual design of the campus has begun, and Virgin Galactic plans to complete the build in parallel with expanding its fleet of spaceships in New Mexico.
The space travel company will continue to make use of local suppliers; since 2011, Virgin Galactic has spent more than US$180 million in New Mexico, with more than US$50 million of supplies purchased from over 200 different local suppliers.
Currently, it also employs more than 200 New Mexico-based employees and expects that many professional and service roles will be created to support the high-touch training and hospitality operations planned at the new astronaut campus.
Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, says: “I’m thrilled to welcome the next chapter of Virgin Galactic’s continued investment in New Mexico. The new astronaut campus in Sierra County will spur further economic activity for New Mexico, creating more local jobs and attracting new visitors and spending to the area. New Mexico is proud to be home to the future of aerospace innovation and space tourism.”