Private rocket launch company passes on local test site, will seek greener pastures elsewhere

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 10:06 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 3:54 PM CDT
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MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) – New Mexico-based X-Bow Systems Inc. or Crossbow, a privately owned launch services and rocket propulsion technology company, is passing on a potential rocket test site in a remote area of Falls County after a contentious public meeting Monday night in Marlin during which some residents expressed strong reservations about the proposal.

“Other X-Bow leadership called and discussed this with me this morning regarding next steps. I made the decision to pursue other opportunities that have been presented to me,” Les Martin, the company’s ground logistics test director, said in a post circulated Tuesday.

Mayor Carolyn Lofton confirmed Tuesday the company decided not to pursue a site in the county.

Martin, who’s originally from the area, has worked for five companies in the space systems industry including SpaceX, which has a rocket motor test site in McGregor.

He told residents at the meeting last night that in his experience cows often graze near other test sites unbothered, in hopes of reassuring farmers that their facility would not scare their livestock off.

The company is looking for a site to test small rocket engines, about the size of a briefcase, every other week for about 30 seconds at a time and to test a larger engine three to six times a year.

Residents raised several concerns during the meeting Monday night about potential pollution, noise, threat to livestock, water supply and fire safety.

“I’m all for your company,” one woman in the crowd said.

“But the city of Marlin needs tax money to fix the streets and the water and if it’s not for that I don’t think we’re going to like it.”

The city proposed a 10-year tax abatement as an incentive, and city council members who attended the meeting said the test facility could serve as a steppingstone for additional growth.

“We need this we need growth in this community and I’m afraid if we turn down this opportunity other opportunities won’t come,” Mayor Lofton said after the meeting.

X-Bow CEO Jason Hundley says the site in Falls County was the only one offered by the city, but City Councilman Scottie Henderson says officials offered a location that was remote, because of the possible national defense type of work the company may be doing.

Hundley also says they follow federal guidelines and are checked by federal agencies in terms of possible pollution and activities.

In response to concerns about their water use, Hundley says the only use outside of drinking water and restroom needs is soap and water needed to clean some of its equipment.

He also says they’re insured in the millions to protect in the event of a fire at the site.

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