Posts tagged with "Virgin Galactic":

Placeholder Alt Text

Virgin Galactic unveils ultra-lux Gateway to Space

Virgin Galactic, the branch of the British Virgin Group corporation that aims to render commercial space flight a reality, has officially unveiled the interior of its "Gateway to Space" building at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert. The facility will play a critical role in the company’s space tourism endeavor, including as a workspace for Virgin employees and a waiting area for the families of prospective private astronauts.

The Gateway to Space building sits on the 18,000-acre Spaceport America campus and was originally designed by the international architecture firm Foster + Partners in 2011. With Virgin Galactic’s civilian space travel program beset by numerous delays, the building has served primarily as an aircraft hangar for the past eight years. The now completed two-story interior is designed to accommodate lounge space for guests on the first level and staff offices on the second. A third floor, which is still under construction, will be used as a passenger training center for three days of coaching before each flight.

While one might expect a spaceport to be full of tech gadgets and screens, the design of the passenger lounge is surprisingly warm. Labeled Gaia, and designed by the London-based Viewport Studio, the lounge makes use of natural materials and colors that ground the space in the surrounding landscape. With expansive views of the desert just outside the Gateway's double-height windows, the natural wood textures, stonework, and earth-tone upholstery contribute to the overall visual unity of the experience. Most of the seating around the perimeter of the space faces outward, giving guests prime views of the land, runway, and sky. Viewport has worked with other branches of the Virgin Group before, including as an aircraft interior designer for Virgin Atlantic.

With a high-end bar at its center and all of the components of a first-class airport lounge, Gaia promises to live up to the swanky—and completely unprecedented—experience of space tourism. Only the families of ticketed passengers, each of who will pay upwards of $250,000 for a few moments of weightlessness at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, will have access to the lounge. Passengers themselves will also be able to use Gaia before and after their flights. Virgin Galactic aims to launch its first civilian astronauts into space in 2020.

Placeholder Alt Text

A Gravity-Free Leap in Commercial Space Travel

Buckle up: the gap between commercial space travel and the present moment is rapidly narrowing. Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America (designed by Foster + Partners) recently signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration granting access to airspace in New Mexico, with designs to turn the ground beneath into a commercial spaceflight center. A major milestone in commercial space travel, the agreement arrives the same week as the unveiling of the Dragon V2, a manned spacecraft designed by SpaceX and Elon Musk. The cutting-edge capsule is a major step in building spacecraft that have the same touch-and-respond sensitivity as a helicopter. The Dragon's development fell beneath a NASA initiative to replace the retired Space Shuttle. Maybe it will be used at the new spaceport, also designed by SpaceX and Elon Musk, in Brownsville, South Texas?
Placeholder Alt Text

Pictorial> Virgin goes Galactic

A quick flashback: Back in 2005, Virgin Group's latest venture, Virgin Galactic, and the State of New Mexico had announced that they had reached an "historic agreement"—that they would build a state-funded $200 million spaceport in New Mexico. Virgin planned to provide sub-orbital space flights to the paying public, along with sub-orbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites (and much later, even orbital human space-flights). The facility was to be designed by Foster + Partners, who won Virgin Galactic's international architectural competition. Now, the Virgin Galactic Spaceport America—the world's first commercial spaceport—has officially launched. Aimed to "articulate the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists while making a minimal impact on the environment," the spaceport is designed to resemble, when viewed from space, Virgin Galactic's brand logo of the eye, with an elongated pupil--the elevated apron completes the iris. When viewed from the ground, the terminal strives to appear more of "a subtle rise in the landscape" by incorporating an organic shape and color of the facade. The site area is 300,000 square feet, and includes three different facilities zones: the western zone houses support and administrative facilities for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority; the central zone serves as operational heart containing the hangar and hangar support for space craft; the eastern zone includes the principal operational training area, astronaut lounge, mission control, spacesuit dressing rooms, and "revival lounge" (which we hope is not as ominous in reality as it sounds). One of the challenges of the design was to achieve a sensitive balance between public versus private space. While the astronauts' areas and visitor spaces are fully integrated with the rest of the building, more sensitive zones such as the control room are visible but less accessible. The Spaceport, which is seeking LEED Gold status, is also sustainability-conscious--its low-lying form is embedded in the landscape for earth-sheltering, which exploits the thermal mass and buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate. Another green element is the 100m-long Earth Tubes, which are buried in the earth berm for fresh air intake, which cools and ventilates the interior. Also, the facility's facade orientation maximizes the daylight use via skylights (with high performance low-emittance glazing and natural shading system), and uses photovoltaics for electricity; it also sports underfloor radiant cooling and heating, with coils cast in the concrete slab, and chilled beams. Lastly, it conserves water with graywater recycling. More than 450 amateur astronauts from 46 different countries have already plunked down their deposits for the whopping $200,000 space flight, which is expected to take off soon after Christmas 2012.