The Associated Press
LAS CRUCES — Virgin Galactic will make the first-ever rent payment this month for use of Spaceport America in New Mexico, state officials said.
The company will pay $85,833 monthly, according to a calculation based on information from the spaceport, The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Wednesday.
The amount is one-twelfth of the $1 million a year charged to Virgin Galactic for use of the facilities. It will pay another $2,500 a month in rent for land.
The terminal-hangar, dubbed the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, is the main facility to be used by the company to launch tourists to suborbital space, once operations start. The first flights could happen late this year.
The lease agreement takes the space facility one step closer to financial independence, said David Buchholtz, a board member of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
“Certainly I look to that as a significant source of operating revenue going forward, so that we don’t have to draw on other public sources,” he said.
Authority executive director Christine Anderson said the rent will begin accruing Jan. 15.
The London-based Virgin Galactic did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.
Virgin Galactic said late last year that it would re-think its plans in New Mexico if a bill that would prevent lawsuits against spaceflight parts manufacturers fails again in the Legislature. Spaceport supporters have said the law change is crucial to the facility’s future.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has pushed unsuccessfully for two years for legislation to protect the manufacturers from legal liability.
Save Our Spaceport Coalition, a group of aerospace-related companies and business associations, said in November they would tout the benefits of New Mexico’s Spaceport America and the need for the legislation.