Iím at least as much of a rocket nut as an airplane nut. For that reason, the opportunity to fly my RV into Spaceport America and land at an airport with a rocket symbol was a big deal for me.
Spaceport America is partly funded by the NM taxpayer and is intended to be the launch facility for Virgin Galacticís space tourism business. It shares airspace with White Sands Missile Range, one of the birthplaces of Rocketry in the United States It is home to the worldís first atomic bomb test at the Trinity Site, and our first V2 launches post WWII. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Sands_Missile_Range
It is still a very active range with a lot of amazing development taking place there.
For one day / year, usually in early October Spaceport America is open to the public, including their 11,000í x 200í runway. I have launches from a number of Western Hemisphere launch facilities, but this was my first visit to a facility that specializes in horizontal (runway based) launch and recovery. The horizontal launch capability is what requires such a large runway in the middle of the desert. The facility does have at least one rail launcher as evidenced by this most excellent video of a sounding rocket shot last November. https://youtu.be/bDoh8zQDT38
The video won a GoPro award and is well worth the time to watch it. Just hearing the count makes me jittery. Thereís nothing quite like turning months or yearsí worth of work loose on hundreds of pounds of explosives. It's the ultimate smoke test.
Our trip down was short and uneventful. It seems that about 1/3 of the 30 or so aircraft that attended arrived at once. We deviated a bit West to let things settle out. The image below is our APRS track.
The range extensions (R5111A,B,C,D and R5017E) are frequently closed on the weekends allowing a view of the high New Mexico desert that few get to enjoy. The valley between the Caballo and San Andres mountains has a large lava flow. During our summer monsoons the pockets in the lava flow catch water making a mosaic of oases on the desert floor. Thereís limited access by road, so if youíre not in a small plane on the weekends, you probably donít get to see it. It is worth a detour if youíre traveling by RV and the airspace is cold. Itís a spectacular area and I regret that Iíve never taken photos of it. Itís easy to forget to document the beauty outside your own back door.
The 11,000 foot grooved concrete runway was adequate for the needs of our RV-10 and we were soon taxiing up to the main hangar.
It took a few minutes to get settled on the expansive ramp and get everyone settled. Time to explore!
The architecture of the building is truly amazing and I spent a fair amount of time examining the curved, rolling hangar doors. Theyíre a remarkable piece of engineering.
We eventually made our way inside to drool on the polished concrete floors, stare at a mockup of Spaceship 2 and let the kids do some science demonstrations they had set up. Ameliaís science experimentation mostly revolves around the sense of taste at this point, but Ayrton had fun making some paper airplanes and windmills.
There were some presentations about the Spaceport that seemed interesting, but sitting and listening to a speaker arenít very family friendly activities.
The facility has some impressive emergency vehicles, we got to watch a demonstration and let the kids climb on the firetrucks. Ayrton got points from the firefighters for knowing that their fire truck was made in Oshkosh.
We were back in the air around noon for a quiet but somewhat bumpy flight home.
Spaceport Americaís open house seems to coincide with the opening day of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in early October. Itís a pretty good time to visit the area if you like nice weather and things that fly.