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Texas firm to fly from Spaceport

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The rockets may soon be flying from Spaceport America under a contract it has signed with a small Texas-based company looking to build business in the launch sector.

EXOS Aerospace Systems and Technologies plans to fly from the Spaceport over the next five years, according to a joint statement. It plans to target research, pharmaceutical and medical markets, as well as the NASA Flight Opportunities program for suborbital technology demonstration payloads since the Space Shuttle was retired.

EXOS said it expects its first NASA payload later this year.

Initially, EXOS will use Spaceport on a project-by-project basis, said Christine Anderson, Spaceport America CEO.

In the early going, she said the business relationship would generate revenue via user fees and user flights. She did not immediately have a dollar value projected, adding it depends on how much business EXOS can generate with clients.

John Quinn, chief operating officer of the 15-person company in Caddo Mills, Texas, said EXOS will establish full tenancy with a dedicated facility once its flight rate makes “economic sense.”  When business reaches a critical mass, Quinn projects the New Mexico operation at Spaceport could provide employment for up to 30 people.

With anchor tenant Virgin Galactic’s start date still uncertain, the $218.5 million taxpayer-funded facility has been shopping for new customers in the emerging commercial space segment, including in space launch testing, ground satellite operations and drone flight testing, according to a business plan rolled out last summer.

Virgin Galactic is paying about $1.6 million a year to occupy the terminal, but it’s not clear when the company will launch its first flights to space from New Mexico.

More than 700 would-be astronauts have bought $250,000 tickets to fly with Virgin Galactic to space and back from Spaceport America.

Space firms have paid to conduct more than 24 vertical rocket launches at Spaceport since 2006, Anderson said. “The skies not the limit,” she said of the targeted business segments.

In addition to EXOS, Spaceport welcomed another vendor to the facility this week.

MARS Scientific, a Las Cruces firm that does telescopic spacecraft tracking and imaging,  has plans to generate business at the facility, said Anderson. The firm isn’t leasing land or workspace, she said, but fielding crews on a project-by-project basis.