Lift-off scheduled for 2008 for Virgin Galactic space flights.

Upham in New Mexico is to be the site for the world’s first commercial spaceport. As plans were revealed yesterday, state governor Bill Richardson said that he will ask state legislators for $100m (£56m) over three years to build the base, with local towns and the federal government contributing a further $125m (£71m). Aerospace consultants predict that the Southwest Regional Spaceport – designed by Philippe Starck – could generate $750m (£423m) a year by 2020.

Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, plans to start passenger flights from the spaceport as early as 2008. So far wannabe spacemen and women have paid $10m (£5.6m) in deposits for tickets.

Approximately 90% of the port will be underground, with only the runways and a few buildings visible from the surface. Construction is due to begin in 2007.