An Idaho Falls construction company has contributed to the emerging space tourism market.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, completed an up-and-down test flight into space aboard his company’s VSS Unity Rocketplane on July 11. The test flight launched from Spaceport America, a facility that the Idaho Falls-based company Dome Technology helped build. Spaceport America is the world’s first commercial spaceport.
The FAA-licensed launch complex is situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, the facility’s website said. It was designed, built and is owned and operated by the state of New Mexico. In addition to Branson’s company, the facility’s tenants include HAPS Mobile/AeroVironment, UP Aerospace and SpinLaunch. Additionally Boeing, EXOS Aerospace and Swift Engineering often use the facility.
Dome Technology is a construction company that specializes in building facilities with dome shapes. The company built its first dome in Shelley in 1976 and has constructed projects in more than 30 countries.
Dome Technology built the fire station on Spaceport America’s campus in 2010. The station was built with a modern aesthetic and a nod to the desert environment according to the project’s description on Dome Technology’s website.
“It was pretty hectic,” said Dome Technology Vice President of Engineering Jason South. “We worked with their architect and several people on their side. They were disorganized to say the least. It was kind of a monumental undertaking with what they were trying to do.”
South said there were problems with management for the project on Spaceport America’s end. Former Spaceport America Executive Director Steve Landeene was fired during the project for reasons that South said he did not know. Former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez also did not approve of the project despite her predecessor Bill Richardson, supporting it when construction began while Richardson was in office.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” South said.
The station was built with an organic design that captures the feel of space exploration. For a futuristic feel, the dome was built with large openings, including a 30-foot cantilevered “eyebrow” shell within the dome structure. To blend in with the desert, the exterior was built with sand-colored tiles.
“The design of the fire station fits well with the design of the Spaceport and the overall design environment which was trying to be achieved,” said T.J. Allard in the project’s description. Allard led protective services at Spaceport America for Fiore Industries in 2010.
South said Dome Technology is currently working on its first project in Japan, although he could not give any specific details about the project at this time.