Non-Profit Group Bought XCOR’s Assets & IP

Message left on the XCOR engine test stand. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

On Friday, Space.com published a story I wrote about how Build A Plane had purchased XCOR’s assets for use in a school it wants to build down the road in Lancaster. The organization, which focuses on getting planes donated to schools, has launched a parallel program called Build A Rocket.

In addition to the physical assets, Build A Plane also gained control of XCOR’s intellectual property (IP). The IP of Rotary Rocket was included in the purchase.

“Build A Rocket has a number of great uses for the XCOR IP,” said founder Lyn Freeman wrote in an email to Parabolic Arc. “We will likely not sell the technology outright, but instead license it.

“Several folks have engaged us about the rocket IP, but again, we’re planning on keeping it in the family for use in our various youth educational projects,” he added.

XCOR was developing an upper stage for ULA’s new Vulcan launch vehicle. ULA ended funded for the contract in 2017, causing XCOR to lay off its remaining staff at the end of June. Some staff members were kept on board on a contract basis, but the company declared bankruptcy in November 2017.

Build A Plane bought the assets at an auction whose opening bid was $1 million. Space Florida, which was XCOR’s main creditor, bid the minimum. Build A Plane outbid Florida’s space agency with an offer of $1.065 million. The money came from an anonymous donor.

Freeman explained how the assets would be used for the organization’s new program, Build A Rocket:

“The idea being that we could get kids — if we had a stellar faculty — that we could get students from all over the country who were to come and learn about aerospace and rocketry specifically,” he said. “The cool thing is that this school would be co-located with a functioning aerospace company, so that when they designed rocket components, for example, they could then open the doors and step out into 20,000 square feet [1,858 square meters] of aerospace fabrication equipment and engineers and people that were in the business doing it right then and there.”

The partner for the project is Sage Cheshire Aerospace, a Lancaster-based fabrication company that built the Red Bull Stratos capsule that Felix Baumgartner used to set a new parachute jump record in October 2012. The partners have been searching for property on which to build the school and a production facility.

The partners are looking for property in Lancaster where they can build the facility.