The Midland City Council voted 6-1 last week to spend $10,000 on the renewal of a spaceport license for the Midland International Airport.
Council members seemed to appreciate Councilman Spencer Robnett’s concern about economic development efforts that didn’t pan out, including the failed deals with XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters, which have either filed for bankruptcy or gone out of business since. Councilman Jeff Sparks even said during the meeting he felt the council was “duped” and that XCOR, in particular, was not what the council was led to believe.
Director of Airports Justine Ruff told the Reporter-Telegram on Monday that a total of $2 million in city dollars has been spent on the spaceport through Airport Operations Fund, which she said is funded through parking lot fees and money brought in through minerals on airport land.
Sparks and Councilman J.Ross Lacy also mentioned the “$10 million” in tangible assets that exist at Midland International because of Midland Development Corp. and Governor’s Office investments in aerospace in Midland.
Following the bankruptcies of XCOR and Orbital outfitters, Midland City Councilman Spencer Robnett says it’s time to end the city’s efforts to establish a viable spaceport.
In an opinion piece published by the Midland Reporter Telegram, Robnett wrote:
At this Tuesday’s City Council meeting, we will consider a resolution extending a contract with SilverWing Enterprises for contractual services to renew our spaceport license for 5 years. I will vote against extending the spaceport license and any future spaceport agenda items and would encourage my fellow councilmen and councilwoman to do the same.
What was initially touted as a chance to diversify Midland’s economy and bring space tourism, space research and space travel to West Texas has cost the taxpayers of Midland over $20 million to date with nothing to show for it. Since this community began pursuit of a spaceport designation, Midland’s population has grown at unprecedented rates and Permian Basin oil production has tripled. Based on some reports, Basin production could again double by 2023 with $300 billion in upstream investment forecast during that time period. We need to spend our tax dollars supporting infrastructure that helps drive what makes Midland unique and prosperous, not chase speculative diversification efforts at the taxpayers’ expense.
The Texas Legislature has approved a bill to enhance the role of the state’s Aerospace and Aviation Office in attracting and retaining aerospace industry. The measure was sent to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday.
The legislation would require the office to “develop short-term and long-term policy initiatives or recommend reforms the state may undertake or implement.”
The office would also “make specific short-term and long-term statutory, administrative, and budget-related recommendations to the legislature and the governor regarding the policy initiatives and reforms. The short-term recommendations must include two-year and four-year plans for state action that may be implemented or achieved on or before September 1, 2019, and September 1, 2021, respectively. The long-term recommendations must include 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year plans for state action that may be implemented or achieved on or before September 1, 2022, September 1, 2027, and September 1, 2032, respectively.”
The bill would also overhaul the membership of the Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee to include representatives of spaceport authorities in Midland and the Brownsville areas.
Nearly three years after signing an agreement to move its headquarters to Midland, XCOR Aerospace is still in Mojave. But, the company’s executives are saying XCOR is still moving to West Texas.
XCOR Aerospace’s new CEO and President Jay Gibson and new Chief Technology Officer Jeff Greason reaffirmed that the Mojave, California-based private space company is still committed to making Midland its new home….
Gibson said that, when XCOR first announced in 2012 its partnership with local entities, a long-term vision was established that Midland was going to be a big part of XCOR’s identity.
“To be honest, that (vision) hasn’t changed,” Gibson said. “My role is just one of evolution to solidify that and get us to where Midland continues to be a significant part of our plans.”
Before joining XCOR, Gibson held high-level positions at Beechcraft Corp., the U.S. Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was vice president of the Special Missions Group and vice president and CFO of the defense unit at Beechcraft Corp., and assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force and deputy under the secretary of defense.
Gibson is also familiar with West Texas, having lived in Abilene for 11 years.
XCOR has suffered major delays in assembling the first Lynx rocket plane, which it originally hoped to have in flight tests by the end of 2012. The company plans to begin flight tests in Mojave before moving to Midland. It’s not clear when flight tests will begin.
NewsWest9.com reports the Midland City Council has approved the expenditure of up to $200,000 to build a rocket engine test stand for XCOR at the Midland International Air and Space Port. The money will come from the Midland Development Corporation.
XCOR has a lease to move its R&D facility to the west Texas city, which has put up incentives worth $10 million for the company. The move is planned for after XCOR begins flight tests of its Lynx suborbital spacecraft in Mojave, Calif.
FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George Nield announced today the agency has awarded a spaceport license to Midland International Airport, paving the way for XCOR Aerospace to move its research and development operations there next year.
Nield made the announcement this morning at the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting in Washington, D.C. Midland Airport Director Marvin Esterly was present to receive the license.
XCOR signed an agreement to move to Midland from Mojave, Calif., in July 2012. That move was contingent upon the Midland airport receiving a spaceport license that will allow XCOR to fly its Lynx suborbital spacecraft.
XCOR plans to move to Midland next year after conducting initial flight tests in Mojave.
A couple of brief updates on the XCOR move to Midland, Texas. It looks as though the FAA is about to complete its environmental assessment of Midland International Airport’s spaceport license application:
In the next two weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration General Council is expected to approve the airport’s environmental assessment portion of their application.
The application will then be published in the federal register.
CBS-7 News is also reporting that once the full application is approved, city officials “will hold a public meeting to take input on the project sometime in February.”
XCOR and the city of Midland announced a $10 million deal to move the company’s R&D facility to the West Texas airport in July 2012. The move is contingent on the airport receiving a spaceport license from the FAA.
XCOR expects to move from Mojave into its new digs in Midland, Texas sometime next summer while officials there report progress in obtaining a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):
[XCOR COO Andrew] Nelson expects the first and second phases of hangar renovations to be finished by May and July. He said XCOR will relocate after renovations after completed.
After narrowing down contractors to three finalists, the company has chosen a bidder and is negotiating a final contract, said Nelson, who also gave city officials a glimpse of taking a $95,000 ride on the Lynx spacecraft….
Marv Esterly, the city’s director of airports, said the environmental assessment stage of applying for a spaceport license is nearly complete, with attorneys at the [FAA] Office of Commercial Space Transportation reviewing it.
Esterly expects the Federal Register to publish the assessment in January, followed by a public meeting. At that point, the airport’s application is “substantially complete,” he said….
Even though the FAA has 180 days to approve the application, he doesn’t expect it to take that long, he said.
An update from Midland, Texas, on plans to bring XCOR to the airport there from California:
Marv Esterly, the city’s director of airports, said the airport still awaits its spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration, a necessary step for XCOR to arrive. But with the recent government shutdown affecting agencies such as the FAA, Esterly predicts the license, originally slated for the end of the year, may now be granted in February 2014.
“It’s up in the air,” Esterly said in regards to XCOR’s actual arrival to Midland.
The original plan was to have renovations to XCOR’s future home, the former AMI hangar, complete by fall this year and the license to be granted at this time as well. Office space and insulation inside the hangar were meant to have started in early 2013, but as of now, a contractor is being selected for the renovations….
As the wait for the license continues, the city of Midland and Midland County collaborated to form the Spaceport Development Corp. The group can apply for state grants related to spaceports, but more importantly, it can control land surrounding the airport to ensure that XCOR’s flight path has no interference. MDC also helped XCOR’s path as well in June when it purchased 374 acres of land near Farm-to-Market Road 1788 between State Highways 191 and 158 for $4 million.
The Midland City Council approved the nearly $4 million purchase of land by the Midland Development Corp. for land for north of Midland International Airport, a move expected to aid the city as it tries to obtain a spaceport designation.
The 374 acres is located north of the airport near Farm-to-Market Road 1788 between Highways 191 and 158. The deal is not to exceed $4.01 million….
Marv Esterly, director of airports for the city of Midland, said the deal wasn’t just about XCOR but other future airport development. Proposed development outside the airport, he said, should be compatible with future development of the airport and spaceport.
I’m beginning to catch up on a lot of back posts from the Space Access and Planetary Defense Conferences I attended in Arizona. I was mostly Tweeting those events, so my blogging suffered a bit. I also wasn’t feeling all that well in Phoenix, so my Space Access output wasn’t up to what it was in previous conferences. I was pretty disappointed with what I was able to put out there for you all to read. Fortunately, I was feeling better by the time I got to Flagstaff.
We’ll start out with an overview of XCOR CEO Jeff Greason’s talk. Greason gave a very detailed and candid overview of progress on the Lynx suborbital space plane, which the company is hoping to get into the air late this year. He also touched upon the company’s move to Midland, the fully reusable orbital system XCOR is working on, and engine development work it is doing with United Launch Alliance.
Additional material will follow as I get caught up on my posts.
Here are a couple of updates from SXC on the progress of XCOR’s Lynx program. In the first update, SXC Founder Harry van Hulten reports on his recent visit to XCOR in Mojave. The second update provides some more general information about XCOR.
Harry van Hulten Visits XCOR
I visited XCOR recently and was again impressed by the amount of progress. XCOR recently reached a historic milestone by completing a series of rocket motor tests, which evaluated one full pump fed rocket motor mounted on a flight weight fuselage and engine thrust structure in the Lynx Mark I configuration. The last test in the series included a 67 second run, which was successfully completed. The 67 seconds was the maximum amount of time achievable with the smaller test liquid oxygen (LOX) tank.
The Texas spaceflight informed consent law would be significantly expanded to provide significantly greater protections for spaceflight operators, manufacturers and component suppliers under legislation now making its way through the State Legislature.
The bill is one of three measures being considered by lawmakers during this session. The other two measures would clarify the liability of municipalities and add a commercial spaceflight representative to the state’s Aviation Advisory Committee.