Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport standing on the sands of the New Mexico desert, is readying itself to welcome the world’s first space tourists.

And Virgin Galactic will likely be the first to fly these people into outer space. The cost of a seat on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight is $250,000 and 600 people have already paid downpayments for their trips.

Virgin Galactic on Thursday declared Spaceport America "operationally functional” and transferred all its spaceflight operations to this facility. It also revealed the interior of its "Gateway to Space" building at the spaceport.

This spaceport licensed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is located on 18,000 acres in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin. It can accommodate both vertical and horizontal launch aerospace vehicles. It’s owned and operated by the State of New Mexico and is operated by a state agency, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

Current tenants of Spaceport America include Virgin Galactic, UP Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace. Virgin Galactic, however, is the spaceport’s anchor tenant and as such has primary access to the 12,000 foot-long (3,700 meter) runway, from which it will launch commercial suborbital trips. SpaceX, which also plans commercial flights to space, has yet to release any information about a possible Spaceport. 

Virgin Galactic was supposed to have sent its first space tourists into space by Christmas 2018 but that plan didn’t pan out. At the time, Virgin Galactic founder, Sir Richard Branson, said he was “reasonably confident that before Christmas we will (send people to space).”

Virgin Galactic is developing commercial spacecraft such as VSS Unity to fly space tourists into the mesosphere or low Earth orbit (LEO). It will also undertake suborbital launches for space science missions for NASA and scientific institutions worldwide.

While waiting for Virgin’s first space tourists, Virgin Galactic has been making Spaceport America more comfy and passenger-friendly.

The first phase of the the passenger amenities includes an elegantly appointed little restaurant and café. There are also a number of small lounge areas for passengers and other visitors.

Virgin’s Gateway to Space building is a two floor structure primarily focused on spaceflight operations. One floor, however, is dedicated towards passengers and their comfort. The company said the completion of the interior work on the Gateway to Space building means the spaceport can now "support Virgin Galactic's flight requirements.”

Virgin Galactic has had several successful test flights, but there’s still no indication when its first actual commercial spaceflight into LEO will take place.

“The last flight we did, we basically demonstrated a full commercial profile, including the interior of the vehicle,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. “Not only did we, you know, go up to space and come down, but because Beth was in the back -- Beth Moses, our flight instructor -- she was sort of our mock passenger. She got up a couple times and moved around, she was able to verify our cabin conditions.”

Gaia Lounge at Gateway to Space Gaia Lounge at Gateway to Space Photo: Virgin Galactic