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FOSTER ENTERS SPACE RACE

Foster and Partners has drawn up concept plans for a commercial spaceport in New Mexico, USA.

However, despite the practice's initial input, it will now have to compete against some of this planet's rising stars to land the full commission to design the terminal and hangar facilities for space ights.

The AJ can reveal that New Mexico state authorities have decided to launch an international open competition to -nd an architect to develop the design of the $200 million (£100 million) spaceport.

Covering a 70km 2 site close to the mysterious Roswell airforce base, site of an alleged UFO crash, the spaceport will become the headquarters and mission control for Virgin boss Richard Branson's spacetourism arm Virgin Galactic.

Two years ago the aviation entrepreneur set up the world's -rst commercial space travel business and has already commissioned -ve new 'spaceliners' from the US team behind the history-making SpaceShipOne vehicle.

The craft was awarded the X prize in 2004 after it reached 100km into space twice within a fortnight.

It is hoped future space ights could cost as little as £100,000 per passenger and Branson is billing the new terminal as a '-ve-star destination experience to accommodate customers, their families, and space enthusiasts'.

Speaking about Foster's future role in the design of the new port, Rick Homans, cabinet secretary of New Mexico's economicdevelopment department and the driving force behind the Spaceport project, said he would not rule out his continuing involvement.

He said: '[Foster and Partners] informally offered to show Virgin and us some ideas, which were great.

'We are looking at putting the design of the terminal/ hangar out to bid - we are a state agency, so we have speci-c procurement rules and laws.

He added: 'We would hope Foster would submit a proposal.'

Homans has previously stated that the New Mexico base could be fully operational by 2010. Meanwhile, further spaceports are proposed for other parts of the world, including the -rst European terminal in Sweden.

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