“Let the future begin!” said Sir Richard Branson this morning as he announced that Virgin Galactic would be moving its California operations to Spaceport America near Las Cruces over the coming summer, in preparation for initiating the world’s first commercial space flights.

Many an exciting announcement has been made by Spaceport America’s anchor tenant Virgin Galactic in recent months, but joined by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham at this morning’s press conference in Santa Fe, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson announced that in preparation for they will move 100 staff and their families, and Spaceship VSS Unity to Spaceport America.

“New Mexico delivered on its promise to build a world-first and world-class spaceport,” said Branson. “Today, I could not be more excited to announce that in return, we are now ready to bring New Mexico a world-first, world-class spaceline. Virgin Galactic is coming home to New Mexico, where together we will open space to change the world for good.”

Virgin Galactic will reposition its space system consisting of carrier aircraft VMS Eve and spaceship VSS Unity from Mojave California to Spaceport America over the summer months once cabin interior and other work has been completed by Virgin Galactic’s sister manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company. It will complete its final test flights from New Mexico for commencing a full commercial service for passengers and research payload. TSC will remain based in Mojave where it will continue building Virgin Galactic’s planned fleet of SpaceShipTwo and (carrier aircraft) WhiteKnightTwo vehicles.

Two successful suborbital test flights have been conducted by Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, the latest of which on February 22 carried astronaut trainer Beth Moses as a crew member and test passenger, and exceeded three times the speed of sound on its journey.

Future Virgin Galactic paying passengers will be headquartered in Las Cruces as well, as they train during their four-day experience, which will culminate in their own adventure to the edge of space. More than 600 enthusiastic civilian astronauts have paid the $250,000 price tag, Virgin Galactic has said, and their adventures into space will include a brief period of weightlessness and the dramatic opportunity to see the earth’s curvature from space.

“Today’s announcement heightens the excitement felt throughout Las Cruces as we welcome our new neighbors from Virgin Galactic, and eagerly await ‘launch day’,” commented Rochelle Miller-Hernandez, Interim Executive Director of Visit Las Cruces.

Public tours of Spaceport America already depart from Visit Las Cruces offices, and as Virgin Galactic and other Spaceport America tenants gear up their operations, Las Cruces’ economy will experience increased tourism, as well as impacts on local businesses from staff who will be located in the community for short- and long-term stays.

Watch coverage from Virgin Galactic's first and second flights to space: