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'Ground control to Norman' - Foster's Spaceport designs unveiled

Foster & Partners has finally released images of the world's first Spaceport in New Mexico, USA.

The 9,000m2 scheme, the new home for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic venture, was supposed to be unveiled at the end of July, but was postponed following a fatal launch-pad explosion at a rocket-testing centre (Rocket test pad explosion leaves Foster hanging in the balance over Spaceport designs).

Housing a spaceship hangar, an astronaut terminal and a control room, the low-lying building has been designed to blend into the desert landscape and minimise the impact on the historic El Camino Real mission trail nearby.

Describing the practice's competition-winning scheme, senior project architect Grant Brooker said: 'Any building here has to be very sensitive. The scheme grows from the ground yet is a very practical interpretation of the brief.'

According to Brooker, the Spaceport, which will sit close to the US Army's White Sands Missile Range, has been 'designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft'.

Space tourists will enter the building through a deep channel cut into the landscape, the walls of which will be used as exhibition space to showcase a history of the region and its settlers, alongside a history of space exploration.

Once inside, the astronaut and guest areas will be integrated with the rest of the building 'to convey the thrill of space travel' while the more sensitive zones - such as the control room - are visible, but will have limited access.

Speaking about the project, Foster said: 'We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the dynamic team chosen to design the world's first space terminal.

'This technically complex building will not only provide a dramatic experience for the astronauts and visitors, but will set an ecologically sound model for future Spaceport facilities.'

The project could complete as early as 2009.

by Richard Waite

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