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Spaceport competition blasts off

The much-anticipated competition to find an architect to design the world's first spaceport has been officially launched.

Last month the AJ exclusively revealed that Foster & Partners had already worked on an initial 'vision' for a commercial rocket terminal in New Mexico, USA for company Virgin Galactic, run by Richard Branson (pictured above with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson)(AJ 19.04.07).

However, it emerged that the practice had not been appointed to take the $28 million (£14 million) scheme forward, and that the state authorities wanted to host an open international contest to design the new facilities.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority is now inviting architects to come up with 'iconic' proposals for a 9,000m2 hangar, flight operations and office building on the site close to Roswell airforce base, site of an alleged UFO investigation.

The new centre, which is expected to be complete by 2009, will house up to 200 staff, and feature medical facilities, sleeping quarters, hangar space and a mission control centre.

In the first year of operation, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company hopes to put around 500 astronauts into space using its newly designed SpaceShipTwo craft.

By 2019 it is expected at least 10,000 space tourists will be launching from Spaceport America.

Foster & Partners would not comment on whether it would be re-entering the space race by submitting its own competition designs.

Three shortlisted design teams will eventually be asked to draw up their proposals further and will each be handed a £20,000 honorarium.

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by Richard Waite

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