XCOR may be taking off for Texas [updated]

XCOR and its Lynx suborbital vehicle (above) may soon be taking off for Midland, Texas, but a source says they won’t be leaving Mojave behind. (credit: XCOR Aerospace)

According to media reports, Mojave, California-based XCOR Aerospace plans to establish operations in Midland, Texas, with an agreement about a deal with Midland officials scheduled for Monday. The Midland Reporter-Telegram and KOSA-TV reported late Thursday that the Midland Development Corporation (MDC) will seek approval at a special meeting Monday of an agreement with XCOR that would see the suborbital vehicle developer set up operations at Midland International Airport. The agenda for the meeting includes consideration of a resolution “authorizing the execution of an economic development agreement” between XCOR and MDC, as well as a lease agreement for two hangars and tracts at the airport.

The economic development agreement, according to the Reporter-Telegram report, involves $10 million in incentives for XCOR to establish its headquarters there, including $2 million for moving there and $3 million for upgrades to the hangars; the rest are “performance incentives” for reaching a payroll of $12 million within five years. XCOR COO Andrew Nelson told the paper that the weather and airspace in Midland, plus a “business-friendly community and business-friendly state”—perhaps a subtle dig at the regulatory environment in California that many companies consider onerous—were the reasons the company was interested in Midland.

“XCOR sees this as an expansion opportunity,” a source familiar with the deal said in a phone interview today, emphasizing that XCOR would be expanding to Midland, not moving there entirely from Mojave. “They plan on maintaining a presence in Mojave. This is all about growth.”

More details are expected at a press conference Monday at 3 pm EDT in Midland featuring XCOR and local officials. Some open questions about the planned deal include the timing of XCOR’s arrival in Midland and whether Midland International Airport plans to seek a launch site operator’s license (aka spaceport license) from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which would be needed if XCOR planned to conduct test of operational Lynx flights from the airport. (There’s also the issue of integrating a flight test program into the normal operations of a commercial airport like Midland’s; one of Mojave’s strengths is that it is well-suited to experimental aircraft and spacecraft tests.)

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