Briefly: Orbital Outfitters moves to Midland; Waypoint 2 Space gets FAA nod; SNC begins CDR

The quest by Midland, Texas, to become a hub of commercial space activity notched another victory recently. The Midland Development Corporation (MDC), the city’s economic development organization, announced that commercial spacesuit developer Orbital Outfitters will move to Midland in 2015. The deal covers the construction of a new building on about 2 acres (0.8 hectares) of land at Midland International Airport equipped with an altitude chamber to support spacesuit development and training. The MDC announcement does not give any costs to MDC for the deal, but a report in the Midland Reporter-Telegram says the package offered to Orbiter Outfitters is valued at $6.9 million, including $5.4 million for the headquarters building and altitude chamber complex. The rest covers relocation costs for the company, which currently has offices in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Orbital Outfitters becomes the second NewSpace company to announce plans to relocate to Midland. In mid-2012, XCOR Aerospace announced it would move from Mojave, California, to Midland thanks to a $10-million incentive package. “Midland is becoming a destination for aerospace companies looking for the ideal location and collaboration opportunities for their endeavors,” MDC chairman Robert Rendall said in a statement.

Across the state from Midland, Houston-based Waypoint 2 Space announced this week that it has received a safety approval from the FAA from its commercial space training program. An FAA safety approval, according to the agency, is a determination that the approved item or process “will not jeopardize public health and safety, or safety of property, when used or employed within a defined envelope, parameter, or situation.” It is not explicitly required, but makes it easier for launch operators to use approved items or processes as part of their their own vehicles and programs.

Waypoint 2 Space plans to start offering training in “late spring” of this year, with three levels of training planned: a week-long fundamentals course, suborbital training, and orbital training. While the company has its FAA safety approval, the company is still working out agreements with NASA to use facilities at the Johnson Space Center. Ultimately, the company plans to construct its own facilities to provide training.

On Thursday, Sierra Nevada Corporation announced that its Dream Chaser vehicle has started the critical design review (CDR) process, the final major review before beginning actual vehicle construction. However, the milestone the company achieved on its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA is what’s called an “incremental” CDR, not the full-fledged final CDR. The milestone was added as an amendment to the company’s CCiCap agreement, pulling out part of an optional milestone in the original agreement. (That original optional milestone, which covered a full CDR, was redacted in the publicly released version of the original CCiCap award.) The incremental CDR is described in the amended CCiCap agreement as “the first of a series of reviews that support the Dream Chaser Space System (Dream Chaser Spacecraft, Launch Vehicle, Mission and Ground Systems) ICDR [integrated CDR].”

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