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Foster faces space race re-entry

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 flights.

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

Covering a 70km2 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 space-tourism arm Virgin Galactic.

Two years ago the aviation entrepreneur set up the world's first commercial space travel business and has already commissioned five 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 flights could cost as little as £100,000 per passenger and Branson is billing the new terminal as a 'five-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 economic-development 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 specific 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 first European terminal in Sweden.

by Richard Waite

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