Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic crew will soon have a new neighbor at Spaceport America, as SpaceX has just signed a three-year lease to the facility. Central to the agreement, SpaceX will move its Grasshopper reusable rocket test program from McGregor, Texas to the southern New Mexico desert, where it aims to push Grasshopper higher than before. According to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, the move was due to New Mexico's favorable regulatory situation, along with the physical landscape of the Spaceport America site. As fun as that sounds, though, we'd like to imagine that the opportunity to rub shoulders with other celebs in the commercial space industry clinched the decision.
Spaceport America Welcomes SpaceX for Reusable Rocket Testing Program
Governor Susana Martinez today announced that Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, has signed a three-year agreement to lease land and facilities at Spaceport America to conduct the next phase of flight testing for its reusable rocket program. The company will be a new tenant at Spaceport America, the state-owned commercial launch site located in southern New Mexico.
"I am thrilled that SpaceX has chosen to make New Mexico its home, bringing their revolutionary "Grasshopper" rocket and new jobs with them," Governor Martinez said today. "We've done a lot of work to level the playing field so we can compete in the space industry. This is just the first step in broadening the base out at the Spaceport and securing even more tenants. I'm proud to welcome SpaceX to New Mexico."
SpaceX has completed its first series of successful, low-altitude tests of the "Grasshopper" vehicle in McGregor, Texas and is proceeding to the next phase of development that includes testing in New Mexico. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are creating technology that will enable a rocket to return to the launch pad intact for a vertical landing, rather than burning up upon reentry in the Earth's atmosphere.
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said, "Spaceport America offers us the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of Grasshopper testing. We are pleased to expand our reusable rocket development infrastructure to New Mexico."
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has been readying the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport specifically for leading-edge programs like Grasshopper.
Christine Anderson, the NMSA Executive Director, said, "We are excited that SpaceX is coming to Spaceport America, where our first-class service will empower them to focus their full attention on their mission."