Midland City Council Votes to Renew Spaceport License

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.

 

Midland City Councilman Wants to Shutdown Spaceport

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.

Cornwall Expects Big — Maybe Too Big — Things From Newquay Spaceport

There’s some news from Cornwall on the spaceport front:

Cornwall Council has admitted that it is ‘anticipating a positive announcement’ on the bid to have the UK’s first spaceport in Newquay bringing thousands of new jobs and an £1bn a year into the local economy.

Newquay is among eight UK sites vying to become the first spaceport in Europe as the Government aims to meet the growing interest in space tourism.

The Government is expected to announce the location of the spaceport at the Farnborough Air Show which starts on July 16.

If successful, horizontal rocket launches could take place from Newquay , which has one of the longest runways in the country, to see small size satellites put into orbit. The space sector could be worth more than £1 billion by 2030, which is more than 10 per cent of the current economy.

Editor’s Note:  It looks like somebody’s got spaceport fever. Also known as Richardson Syndrome, it is a very serious condition that leads people to do and say all sorts of crazy (and often expensive) things. The only cure for that is reviewing the history of commercial spaceports. Preferable with a couple of pints on hand, which you’ll need once you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into.

I’ve lived for six years near Mojave spaceport, which hasn’t seen a spaceflight in almost 14 years.  Small rocket launches aside, Spaceport America has stayed largely idle since they dedicated the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space way back in 2011. (You don’t need to spend $225 million to launch sounding rockets.) Midland’s spaceport dreams expired when XCOR and Orbital outfitters did. Burns Flat in Oklahoma never saw a launch. Florida’s Cecil Airport is still waiting for its first spaceflight.

Maybe things will be different in Cornwall. Maybe they’ll catch a wave. Maybe the timing is finally right. I don’t know. You never say never in this business.

It’s great that they’re willing to pursue this, but they need to manage expectations. And not go giving things away on sketchy promises. One thing that helps is Newquay won’t be dependent on its space business. It’s not like they’re building a spaceport in suburban nowhere and waiting on something that is always 12 to 18 months away.

Midland Hires Consultant to Rethink Spaceport

With two key tenants — XCOR and Orbital Outfitters — out of business, the Midland Development Corporation has hired Interflight Global to advise it on the next steps for Midland’s spaceport.

It’s a move that City Councilman J. Ross Lacy, who also serves as the President for the Midland Spaceport Development Corporation, thinks is a step in the right direction.

“As we continue to move forward and we see the space industry transform, we needed to bring in Oscar and his group to really help us move forward, and, in some of the areas that we are going to be pursuing, it’s critical to have his expertise as we move into a new chapter for the Spaceport in Midland,” Lacy said.

As far as what the consulting firm will specifically address, MDC chairman Brent Hilliard explained “that contract is just to help us write a business plan for the space port.”

As a more clear business direction is carved out for the space port, the MDC will look to fill out the hangars and buildings that have already been built in the space port’s business park, as the park’s former tenants no longer occupy the space.

Read the full story.

A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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XCOR Owes $27.5 Million to Creditors, Orbital Outfitters Out of Business

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)

The numbers are in on XCOR Aerospace’s bankruptcy, and as one would expect, they’re not real pretty.

The company has $1.1 million in assets and $1,424.66 in cash, according to documents filed with the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California. XCOR owes $27.46 million to creditors, with $23.6 million in unsecured debts and $3.86 million in liabilities secured by assets.

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Midland Looks Forward to Lynx Flights Next Year

Full-scale Lynx mockup (Credit: XCOR)
Full-scale Lynx mockup (Credit: XCOR)

Midland Spaceport Development Corporation President J. Ross Lacy said on Tuesday that he expects XCOR’s Lynx Mark I to make its first flight from Midland International Air & Space Port in the second quarter of 2016.

“Right now, we’re looking at XCOR to probably have their first launch here second quarter of ’16,” Lacy said during a MSDC meeting. “Orbital Outfitters’ building is moving along very nicely; they’ve also got the altitude chamber facilities inside that building. The XCOR hangar is almost complete, and we’ve already got half of their staff out here right now.”

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Midland, XCOR Celebrate Spaceport License

Officials from XCOR and Orbital Outfitters journeyed to Midland for a celebration of the FAA granting a spaceport license to Midland International Airport. This Tweet was the only official word out of XCOR about the celebration.

Statement on Midland Airport Spaceport License

Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

MIDLAND, Texas (Press Release)—In a joint release today, the Midland International Airport, Midland Development Corporation, XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval of a Commercial Space Launch Site License (Spaceport) for the Midland International Airport (MAF). Midland International Airport is the first primary commercial service airport to be certified by the FAA under the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 420 as a spaceport and will furthermore be referred to as the Midland International Air & Space Port.

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Orbital Outfitters Gives Midland Preview of Vacuum Chamber Complex

orbital_outfittersOn Wednesday, representatives of Orbital Outfitters and Holder Aerospace gave an overview of the vacuum chamber complex they plan to build to the Midland Development Corporation (MDC).

The complex features three chambers — a vacuum system, an observation room and safety support systems — according to a presentation made by co-developers Holder Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters. Two of the chambers will be used to test the space suits that Orbital Outfitters are custom-building for XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx space vehicle.

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CSF Adds Six New Members

csf_logo_newestWashington D.C. (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce the addition of six new member organizations. Bigelow Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters have joined as new Executive Members and Moon Express has moved up from Associate to Executive Membership. ASRC Federal, Spaceport Sweden, and World View Enterprises have joined as Associate Members.

“The CSF membership is representative of all facets of space exploration,” said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “This diversity is indicative of a growing, thriving sector, with each company contributing to the overarching success of the commercial space exploration industry.”

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Jeff Feige Takes Over as SFF Chairman From Bob Werb

sff_logoNYACK, NY (SFF PR) — The Board of Directors of the Space Frontier Foundation announced today that Bob Werb, Co-Founder and long-time Chairman of the Board, has retired from the position, and that they have unanimously elected space entrepreneur Jeff Feige to take over as the Foundation’s new Chairman.

“Bob’s extraordinary vision and leadership permeates every corner of our organization,” said Foundation President James Pura. “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our founding, you can look back at 25 years of his passionate contribution of ideas, common sense, and business excellence to nearly everything we’ve done to advocate for an open frontier in space for everyone.”

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Orbital Outfitters Moving to Midland

spacesuit_orbital_outfittersMIDLAND, Texas (MDC PR) – The Midland Development Corporation approved an agreement with Orbital Outfitters for the location of their Space Pressure Suit Manufacturing and Development business at the Midland International Airport (MAF).

The construction of the new building, on approx. 2 acres of land at MAF, will completed by December 2015. The building will include an altitude chamber complex to support the testing and qualification of space and pressure suits, small space systems and components testing and flight crew training operations and will be made available for use by UTPB.

Orbital Outfitters specializes in the design, development, and manufacturing of space and pressure suits, with a secondary line of business focusing on the production of full-scale space vehicle mockups. The company works closely with XCOR Aerospace, whose new R&D Center will be located on the flight line at MAF in a soon-to-be renovated ~60,000 sq. ft. hangar testing and office facility.

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Orbital Outfitters Moving to Midland

orbital_outfittersThere’s a report out of Midland, Texas about plans for Los Angeles-based spacesuit manufacturer Orbital Outfitters to move there:

This week Midland Development Corp. approved a nearly $7 million agreement which will permit Orbital Outfitters to manage and operate a $3.2 million altitude chamber facility, which MDC will own. According to news reports, the board will also provide the firm with an incentive of $2.2 million to construct its headquarters in the Lone Star State city, along with $1.5 million to assist in its relocation from California.

The agenda for MDC’s meeting on Jan. 24 lists three measures concerning Orbital Outfitters: an economic agreement, the lease of a two-acre tract at the Midland International Airport by the city of Midland, and a sublease of that tract to the company. No details are provided.

Orbital Outfitters will join XCOR Aerospace, which has an agreement with Midland to move its research and development facility to the West Texas city. Lee Valentine, who is one of XCOR’s lead investors, also is a co-founder of Orbital Outfitters.

Space Access 12: Jeff Feige of Orbital Outfitters

Jeff Feige
Orbital Outfitters

  • Clients include XCOR, SpaceX and NASA
  • Primarily produce spacesuits
  • Lately been involved in developing vehicle mockups
  • Spacsuits are not stand-alone off-the-rack but are integrated subsystem of the vehicle — need to be integrated with environmental and life support systems, seats, doors, etc.
  • Many questions to consider in developing suits
  • How much mobility?
  • What are realistic emergency scenarios
  • Would occupants have to bail out?
  • What are you protecting the wearer from other than pressure loss? Fire? Chemicals? Thermal?
  • Doesn’t agree with the we don’t need a suit, my vehicle is robust
  • Of course it’s a robust vehicle
  • “Well…shit happens”
  • Spacesuit is a last line of defense
  • Several examples of incidents in spaceflight without spacesuits
  • Soyuz 11 — crew died when spacecraft depressurized in space and crew didn’t have pressure suits on — suits would have saved the crew
  • Apollo-Soyuz crew nearly died when gases from RSC thruster entered cabin through an open vent during descent — crew not wearing suits
  • spacesuits were not integrated into space shuttle — retrofitted after the Challenger accident