Situated on 18,000 acres near Las Cruces, New Mexico, Spaceport America is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world and sits next to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range.
Several conditions in the southern New Mexico area made the location ideal for Spaceport America, according to Alice Carruth, public relations coordinator.
“[Spaceport America] has a rocket- friendly environment of 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, low population density, a 12,000-foot by 200-foot runway, vertical launch complexes, and about 340 days of sunshine and low humidity a year,” Carruth said.
The active test facility is closed to public access; however, private tours and other experiences can be arranged in advance with Spaceport America’s tour provider, Final Frontier Tours.
Departing from either the Visit Las Cruces office location or Spaceport America Visitor Center, students will receive a once-in-a-lifetime experience at an internationally- recognized commercial spaceport.
“STEM tours at Spaceport America include time at the Spaceport Operations Center, where the site mission control and SAFE (Security, fire and EMT) team are based,” Carruth said. “Tours then follow progress to our runway and to the Gateway to Space facility rented by Virgin Galactic.”
Students will enter the building via the Astronaut Walkway to the 4k gallery where the G Force machine and interactive exhibits are located.
“There are photo opportunities outside the Gateway to Space and by the replica of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle,” Carruth said.
For the last decade, Spaceport America has offered in-person STEM lessons for middle schoolers. During lockdown, the facility has shifted much of its programming to virtual experiences. Available on Spaceport America’s website, virtual lesson plans include a 6th grade rocket science class and a high school solar power lesson plan — associated with the HAPSMobile SunGlider vehicle under development at the facility.
Every June, Spaceport America hosts the world’s largest intercollegiate rocket engineering contest, the Spaceport America Cup. As a world-renowned facility and destination for collegiate events, Spaceport America is a top selection for educators desiring STEM-focused curricula for their students.
“Spaceport America offers a unique opportunity to see the future of transportation,” Carruth said. “There are currently 12 FAA licensed spaceports across the US, ours is the only location with both horizontal and vertical launch capabilities.”