* XCOR to build, fly suborbital vehicles in Florida
* Plans to locate at Kennedy Space Center
* Expects four flights a day, ticket costs $95,000
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug 23 - XCOR Aerospace, one of a
handful of U.S. firms developing suborbital spaceships, plans to
build its vehicles and fly tourists, researchers and commercial
payloads from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials
announced on Thursday.
The privately owned firm, currently based in Mojave,
California, is developing a two-seat suborbital space plane
called Lynx that is expected to debut by early 2013.
The company expects to fly four times daily, at a cost of
$95,000 per person. The Lynx flights are similar to rides being
offered aboard SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot vehicle
owned by Virgin Galactic, a U.S. offshoot of Richard Branson's
London-based Virgin Group.
Virgin Galactic, which is selling rides for $200,000 per
person, plans to fly from a new spaceport outside Las Cruces,
New Mexico. Its first vehicle is undergoing testing in Mojave
by manufacturer Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop
Both spacecraft take off horizontally --- Lynx by its own
engines and SpaceShipTwo from beneath a carrier aircraft -- then
rocket themselves about 63 miles (100 kilometers) above the
planet's surface before plunging back through the atmosphere.
The thrill ride gives fliers a few minutes to float in
microgravity and a view of the Earth set against the blackness
XCOR intends to fly Lynx from California, as well as Florida
and several other sites around the world, primarily in
partnership with companies and space agencies, similar to how
airline manufacturers lease planes and pilots under so-called
"wet lease" agreements.
NASA SHUTTLE FACILITY
XCOR evaluated several sites before settling on Florida. It
was wooed in part by more than $4 million in state and local
economic incentives and a skilled technical workforce idled by
the end of NASA's space shuttle program last year.
The proposed site, to be located at the Shuttle Landing
Facility, would include a hangar, flight operations center,
manufacturing and assembly plants and a center to support space
XCOR said it hopes to open its KSC site in October 2014. The
company expects to employ about 150 engineers and technicians by
the end of 2018, said chief operating officer Andrew Nelson.
Commercial suborbital spaceflights are expected to bring in
between $600 million and $1.6 billion in revenue within a decade
after the start of operations, a recent study commissioned by
the U.S. government and the state of Florida shows.
"When you have a vehicle like Lynx flying you can expect to
see technology clusters around it," Nelson told community
leaders and guests at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
on Thursday, where the Florida expansion was announced.
In the wake of the shuttles' retirement, NASA is in the
midst of transforming its Florida launch site to handle a
variety of government, commercial and military space and
XCOR previously announced it was moving its corporate
headquarters and setting up a research and development center in
Midland, Texas, lured in part by $10 million in financial
XCOR's agreement with NASA to use the Shuttle Landing
Facility is still pending, said Frank DiBello, president of
Space Florida, a state-backed economic agency that is brokering
the deal and contributing $3 million to the project.