Rick Homans, chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said the vote would mean development of the project could now move into high gear.

"Spaceport America is ready for blast off - all systems are go"

Rick Homans, New Mexico Spaceport Authority

"We can now say that Spaceport America is ready for blast off - all systems are go," he said.

"New Mexico is prepared to launch a whole new era of discovery, exploration and commercial activity in space, on the Moon and beyond. We have nothing but beautiful black sky ahead of us."

Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor, has backed the project saying he expects the spaceport will prove an economic boon for the state, generating up to $1 bn in revenue and creating 5,000 jobs.

Virgin Galactic, owned by British tycoon Richard Branson, plans to begin offering sub-orbital tourist flights from the spaceport in 2009.

Costly ride
 
Tickets will start at about $200,000 per person, for which passengers will experience just a few minutes of weightlessness at the edge of space.
 
The planned $198 million spaceport complex, covering some 70 square kilometres, will be located near the White Sands Missile Range, where the US launched its first rocket after World War II.
 
A mock-up of the cabin of the Virgin Galactic is currently on display at London's Science Museum.
 
The spaceship is the first vehicle specifically designed for space tourism.
 
Last year another space tourism company, Space Adventures, announced plans to build a commercial spaceport in the United Arab Emirates.
 
The company said it plans to offer tourists flights into space using vehicles designed and built in Russia.