UP Aerospace announced it's conducting the first space launch out of the Las Cruces Spaceport March 27, 2006, in conjunction with X Prize. Spectators will watch a live video from the rocket as it travels into space. They will also bring the rocket back to the X Prize grounds for the audience to observe up close and photograph.
UP Aerospace plans to provide low-cost space access to universities and colleges. "They can develop experiments, test them, fly them into space, and get their data back and do some real science," Eric Knight, UP Aerospace's CEO, told reporters.
Program manager for NASA's centennial challenge Brant Sponberg made another announcement only moments before the new grounds were opened to the public. Diamandis and Sponberg announced two new prize competitions in the arena of suborbital rocket flight:
- Sub-Orbital Payload Challenge: a certain size payload must reach a certain altitude, higher than 60 miles (100 kilometers)
- Sub-Orbital Lunar Landing Analog Challenge: a reusable suborbital rocket that takes off and lands vertically and reaches certain speed, demonstrating capabilities necessary to land and launch from the Moon
Both prizes are considerably larger than $250,000, and details will be released in the next few weeks.
"It's our goal that these and other prizes will create each here in New Mexico a multimillion-dollar cash purse that will attract teams from around the world," said Diamandis.