Closer Look: XCOR’s Florida Deal Worth More than $5.7 Million

XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Various Florida agencies put up more than $5.7 million in “incentive value and financing” to help lure XCOR to set up a production facility and operational base for its Lynx space plane in the Sunshine State, according to the head of the state’s space development organization.

The funding and incentives are being put up by Space Florida, Brevard Workforce, Enterprise Florida Inc., and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, according to a presentation by Space Florida President Frank DiBello during the announcement of the deal last month.

Space Florida spokeswoman Tina Lange was unable to provide a precise breakdown of all the incentives and investments. Asked for specifics during a teleconference on last month, XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson referred reporters to an Aug. 14 Florida Today article.

According to that story, the package breaks down as follows:

  • Space Florida: investment of up to $3 million
  • Florida Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program: nearly $1 million
  • Brevard County: $182,400 in tax incentives (matching grant for Florida Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program

In an email response, XCOR spokesman Bryan Campen wrote that the incentives package includes many elements, some of which are dependent on performance and will not be determined until later.

“There are several sources of incentives. The two sources reported by Florida Today are those that were disclosed publicly and were cash related,” Campen wrote. “There are also incentives triggered by certain performance milestones. These are uncertain, probably being estimated by Space Florida.

“I would think the actual end number may be higher than Space Florida estimated,” he added. “One incentive not estimated is that Florida exempts us from sales tax on fuels and propellants. This could be worth a lot more than the value mentioned.”

Nelson said if demand dictates, XCOR plans to eventually produce two to four Lynx suborbital vehicles per year at a facility located in Brevard County. The company plans to have two buildings next to each other, one for production and the other for flight operations. The buildings could be reconfigured to increase flight operations or production as needed, Nelson added.

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason said the company is deliberately separating its production facility from its research and development (R&D) center, which is now located in Mojave, Calif., but which will to Midland, Texas, in 2013.

Greason said he does not want R&D engineers, who are prone to want to change things, near the production line. The workforce in Florida is both highly skilled and accustomed to making sure everything is the same for each launch, which is ideal for production, he added.

XCOR currently has a wet lease agreement for a Lynx vehicle that will fly out of Curacao and a wet lease MOU with Yecheon Astrospace Center in South Korea. Nelson said there is a “fairly robust pipeline” for new wet leases that they hope to announced in the coming year.

The company would like to fly the Lynx out of the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). Greason said there are no known hurdles to overcome, but they have to work through the process to gain permission to operate Lynx from the seaside airport.

The space agency is evaluating how best to operate the facility in the future, either as a NASA facility or a public-private partnership. NASA issued a request for information (RFI) last month seeking inputs from parties interested in managing SLF operations.

Nelson said XCOR plans four Lynx flights per day. He believes there is a robust demand for space tourism, science and upper atmospheric research flights.

XCOR has no problems with operating Lynx from airports with other tenants, he added. It’s actually an advantage because multiple users help to spread out facility costs and also improve the supply chain.

Cecil Field in Jacksonville, which has a spaceport license, and Titusville Airport in Brevard County are also options for Lynx operations, Nelson said.  There are proposals for point-to-point services between Cecil and SLF, although XCOR won’t be pursuing those flight profiles.