Runway opens at world's first spaceport
- 23 October 2010
- From the section US & Canada
Commercial space travel took a step closer with the opening of the runway at the world's first spaceport in the US state of New Mexico.
The event was marked with a flypast of an aircraft carrying SpaceShip Two.
The vehicle has been designed to take fee-paying tourists on trips to the edge of space and back.
British billionaire Sir Richard Branson - whose Virgin group has backed the venture - said the first passenger trip could happen within nine to 18 months.
The opening of the nearly two-mile (three-kilometre) runway comes less than two weeks after another major step for Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic company: the first solo glide flight of SpaceShip Two.
"Today is very personal as our dream becomes more real," Sir Richard said.
"People are beginning to believe now. I think the drop flight two weeks ago, which went beautifully, I think it made people sit up and realize this is really reality."
More than 300 people have already paid at least $200,000 (£128,000) each for a three-hour flight.
Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two - the jet-powered mothership that will carry SpaceShip Two to launch altitude - appeared at Friday's ceremony at Spaceport America near the Mexican border.
The craft, carrying SpaceShip Two, passed over the spaceport several times before landing on the new runway.