The 10-story-tall Grasshopper. (SpaceX)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (May 7, 2013)—New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday that Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has signed a three-year lease to do testing of its Grasshopper reusable rocket at the state’s Spaceport America.
Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson said the Grasshopper project is moving from McGregor west of Waco, to New Mexico because the rocket needs to be tested at higher altitudes.
SpaceX is one of the leading developers of rockets and spacecraft and is one of the companies the Spaceport project has been trying to recruit to New Mexico.
Richard Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant at Spaceport but the project has been struggling to attract other businesses.
Lawmakers earlier this year passed a law to ease liability on the industry to make the state more competitive.
Meanwhile Tuesday several hundred people turned out for a discussion of a draft environmental study of a SpaceX proposal to launch rockets from the southernmost tip of Texas.
The public hearing followed release last month of the draft environmental impact statement that centers on California-based SpaceX's plan to launch as many as 12 rockets a year from a site surrounded by a federal wildlife refuge near Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville.
The draft study found the launches would "adversely affect," but not significantly disrupt, endangered species if steps are taken to mitigate effects.
The process is necessary to Federal Aviation Administration licensing of SpaceX to launch rockets there.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford expects a final report by early fall.
SpaceX project director Steve Davis expects a site decision by year's end.