Oct. 07--There was a lot of hype on July 8, 2012, when Gov. Rick Perry and other notable state and local officials announced that XCOR Aerospace Inc. was coming to Midland, a game changing move to help diversify jobs in the area beyond the oil and natural gas industry.
The city, through the Midland Development Corp., made a $10 million agreement with the private aerospace company to relocate its headquarters and research and development operations from Mojave, Calif., to a hangar at Midland International Airport. The incentive agreement with XCOR was the largest deal the MDC has made in its history; it was recently matched by the deal awarded to Energy Related Properties for Energy Tower.
The move from California to Texas, according to company officials, was due to a more amicable business and regulatory climate.
But more than one year later, XCOR is still in 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 for the license, it remains at the environmental assessment stage at the Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
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.
Pam Welch, executive director of the MDC, previously told the Reporter-Telegram that nothing has changed and XCOR is still coming to Midland.
In the meantime, the company is looking for housing for employees in Midland, as well as continuing its completion of the Lynx spacecraft. The Lynx, taking off from a runway rather than a typical vertical launch, gives passengers willing to pay $95,000 per flight a glimpse of outer space.
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