Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mystery project at Spaceport America is revealed

In December UP Aerospace reported a launch from Spaceport America, but couldn't tell us what or who since it was for "a client who is testing proprietary launch technology." Today, Clark Lindsey reports that the client was Lockheed Martin, and that they too have entered into an agreement with the spaceport. Having a large established company as a user certainly can't hurt! I am so excited that I decided to cross-post the entire announcement:
World’S Top Aerospace Company Lockheed Martin Commits To Spaceport America

UPHAM, NM - Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s top aerospace company, has entered into an agreement with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) to conduct operations from Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico. Lockheed Martin, which has already been testing new launch technologies at the spaceport in conjunction with UP Aerospace, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NMSA to continue testing at the spaceport.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and reported 2006 sales of $41.9 billion. The company cites UP Aerospace and Spaceport America’s ability to provide low-cost, fast turnaround launch services year round as the reason for their commitment. Lean ground operations means Lockheed Martin can do more testing, faster, giving the company a competitive edge in developing new technologies.

In December 2007, Denver-based launch provider UP Aerospace worked with Lockheed Martin to conduct a successful small demonstration launch to test proprietary technology currently being developed by the company. Spaceport America was able to host the launch safely and efficiently, which has led to the MOU with the state of New Mexico.

"Having this relationship with Lockheed Martin validates the concept behind commercial space activity, and proves that Spaceport America can deliver on the promise of lower cost, quicker turnaround launch activity," said NMSA Executive Director Steve Landeene. "More and more companies are expressing commitments to the state, wanting to make Spaceport America a key part of their future plans."

According to Landeene, spaceport planning and design work is nearly complete, and the first bid package for construction work is being prepared for release. Construction on the Spaceport can begin once the NMSA receives their site operator’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Lockheed Martin launch activity will continue in 2008 under the amateur class prior to the FAA vertical launch site license expected in 2009. With continuing commitments from the commercial sectors and positive community support, Spaceport America holds great promise for New Mexico’s economic future as the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

Well, at least the 'who' part of the mystery is known.