XCOR Aerospace moved a step closer to moving its headquarters from Mojave, California, to Midland, Texas, on Friday with a ceremony marking the beginning of renovations of a hangar that the company will call home. The company, along with airport and other local officials, held a “ceremonial wall breaking” at the hangar at Midland International Airport to mark the beginning of renovations being done by the airport to host the company.
“Midland stands at the heart of the American frontier,” XCOR CEO Jeff Greason said in a statement announcing the beginning of the hangar renovations, “It is a symbol of the American West. As the first tenant in the commercial space industry to plant our home here we are honored to expand those opportunities not westward, but upward.”
Local officials are funding the renovation of the hangar as part of incentives it provided to XCOR two years ago to entice them to move to Midland. Once the hangar is ready and the airport has a spaceport license from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, XCOR will move its operations there. “We look forward to the transformation of Midland International Airport into the ‘Midland International Air and Spaceport,'” said John B. Love, a member of the Midland city council and chairman of the city’s Spaceport Development Board, in the statement.
Getting the spaceport license is likely the next major milestone. Local officials are expecting the FAA to make a decision on its application by next month. One concern that arose during the licensing process was the effect that flights of XCOR’s Lynx would have on the “lesser prairie chicken”, a threatened species. Local media reported earlier this month that the government would monitor early Lynx flights to see if they caused any harm, a decision that appears to allow the spaceport license to go forward.
Renovations of the hangar at the Midland airport will start “immediately” after today’s ceremony, local officials said in the statement, with a goal of completing them by early next summer. XCOR would presumably then be able to start moving in.
As for XCOR’s work on Lynx, company president Andrew Nelson said in the statement that the flight test program will start this winter. “As XCOR commences the Lynx flight test program this winter, the hangar construction signals the end of the beginning for our team. The next step is to get Lynx flying,” he said.
Like XCOR’s development of Lynx, getting Midland ready for the company has taken a little longer than expected. When the deal was announced in July 2012, XCOR said that the renovation of the hangar would start in early 2013 and be done by late autumn of that year.