XCOR Aerospace, the suborbital commercial spaceflight company founded in Mojave, Calif., announced a second easterly expansion on Aug. 23, outlining plans for flight operations as well as manufacturing and assembly facilities for its winged, two-seat Lynx Mark II reusable launch vehicle in Central Florida.
The plan calls for up to four flights of the Lynx spacecraft each day from the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at’s for suborbital researchers and tourists within two years, and an adjacent assembly facility for the production of two to three of the vehicles annually.
Some details have yet to be worked out, including formal agreements withfor use of the SLF, the 15,000-ft.-long coastal runway once used by returning space shuttle crews. Market demand for the Lynx, which is expected to begin flight tests in Mojave by early 2013, has not been firmly established.
“We think it will be a wonderful place to operate from, historically, as well as the fact you have all the centers of excellence for research here at KSC,” Jeff Greason, XCOR’s president and co-founder, told an Aug. 23 teleconference. Greason was referencing NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, a nonprofit recently established by the space agency to foster research activities in the National Lab segments of the International Space Station.
“You also have 30 million tourists a year that come to Central Florida,” Greason says. “So it will be a great opportunity for us in both sectors of the suborbital business.”
In early July, the 13-year-old XCOR announced plans to establish its Commercial Space Research and Development Center Headquarters at the Midland International Airport in West Texas. The R&D center will be staffed by the transfer of existing XCOR personnel in Mojave and the hiring of about 100 local employees.
As was the case in Texas, state and local incentives were a factor in XCOR’s Florida plans. Space Florida, a state-sponsored economic development agency, is providing $3 million in incentives for XCOR’s latest initiative, which is expected to generate more than 150 Central Florida jobs by 2018.
The Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville, Fla., which hasspaceport certification, and possibly other sites in Florida will augment or stand in for Kennedy’s SLF for flight operations if NASA finds other uses for the former shuttle runway, says Andrew Nelson, XCOR’s chief operating officer. NASA is currently evaluating proposals for future operations of the shuttle runway.
Both Greason and Nelson say the company’s expansions have long been in the works. The strategy calls for XCOR to serve scientific researchers as well as tourists with flight operations based in Mojave and Kennedy and eventually other global locations. Midland will serve as XCOR’s executive headquarters and flight test center.
“We’ve been planning to establish a manufacturing site starting with the third [vehicle] tail number as long as there has been a company,” Greason says. “We’ve been planning for years to locate our long-term R&D center at a place other than California for various business climate reasons, though I love Mojave as an operations location.”
“We want a manufacturing site geographically separate from our research and development people,” Nelson says. “You don’t want the real creative folks who like to change things every five minutes anywhere near the people whose only job in life is to make sure things are exactly the same every time. The fact the workforce here at KSC is focused to make sure everything is exactly the same every single time they launch something is what we want.”