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Texas' Rocketing Commercial Future

Satellite Technology

Satellite Technology Feature Article

July 16, 2012

Texas' Rocketing Commercial Future

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Virginia and Washington state all have solid commercial spaceflight activities in progress, but it is Texas that appears to be the real winner. Last week, XCOR joined Armadillo, Blue Origin, and SpaceX (News - Alert) in establishing a presence in the Lone Star state.

Midland Development Corporation (MDC) and XCOR announced the establishment of XCOR's new Commercial Space Research and Development Center Headquarters that will be created over the next 18 months. XCORE manufactures reusable rocket engines and is the designer, manufacturer and soon to-be operator of the sub-orbital Lynx reusable space vehicle, a vehicle designed to carry two people or scientific experiments on trips of 100 kilometers above the earth up to four times a day.

 “This is a great day for Midland and a huge step forward for the State of Texas. Visionary companies, like XCOR, continue to choose Texas because they know that innovation is fueled by freedom,” Governor Rick Perry said via press release.

XCOR's new R&D center will be on the flight line at Midland International Airport (MAF) in a newly renovated 60,000 square foot hanger, which will include office space and a test facility. Work is expected to start in early 2013 and be completed by late autumn.   The company credits the decision for selecting Midland included a friendly business climate, predictable regulatory environment and state tort reform initiatives.

Local officials estimate Midland will get $12 million in new payroll and capital investment over the next five years with an estimated annual wage of over $60,000 per job. The City of Midland is also applying to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a Commercial Space Launch Site designation for MAF. When the license process and hanger renovation is completed, XCOR is expected to ramp up operations and people at the facility.

XCOR is the latest privately owned commercial space company to put a presence in Texas. Armadillo Aerospace , started by id Software founder John Carmack in 2000 and located in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, has been working on a series of reusable rockets and lander technologies with an ultimate goal of building manned suborbital and orbital vertical takeoff/vertical landing (VTVL) vehicles.  Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has been very quietly building and testing unmanned suborbital pathfinder vehicles out in Culberson County, Texas and will be providing suborbital rides for experiments in the near-term. 

SpaceX has the most well-known presence in Texas, having successfully demonstrated its ability to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit (LEO) and return experiments and gear from ISS. The company has an engine testing facility in McGregor, Texas which it also uses to officially handover cargo delivered by its Dragon capsule to NASA.  

Texas is in the running for a SpaceX launch facility to be located in Southern Cameron County near the ocean, but environmentalists are concerned that the proposed site near Brownsville would cause damage to Boca Chica State Park and the endangered species it shelters.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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