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Space Access ’11: XCOR’s Jeff Greason

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 8, 2011
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XCOR CEO Jeff Greason

Jeff Greason
CEO, XCOR Aerospace

One of few companies in NewSpace not founded by someone with deep pockets

Right now, things are going well…money isn’t falling out of the sky, but excellent income stream on contracts

XCOR is on track already to be tied for best year ever

Several contracts that are in the works that he hasn’t announced yet…if they are finalized, XCOR will have best year ever

XCOR – ULA Cooperation

  • Developing a pump fed liquid oxygen/hydrogen engine that can be used on existing and future upper stage engines
  • Cost of technology to build EELVs has been rising sharply – parts of ULA he is dealing with don’t resemble the stereotyped Big Rocket companies that we’ve all laughed at in past years
  • ULA’s response to competition is to try to figure out how to build a better product at a lower price
  • If you’re idea to a competitive response is to call your Senator, you may not be a commercial company
  • Finding working with ULA to be a pleasant experience
  • Unintended (and positive effect) of creating ULA was pushing all the people at Lockheed Martin and Boeing who thought space should be done commercially into a ghetto called ULA
  • It is a good thing that there are multiple competing companies for launches – beginning to restore the space industrial base
  • Suspicions that the market is not large enough to support all the launch providers – could be wrong – in the meantime, let competition go forward
  • Mixed personal history with hydrogen powered rocket – now that there is water on the moon, debate is over — hydrogen is the way to go
  • Not sure yet whether this engine could be of use in XCOR’s planned orbital follow-up vehicle….hydrogen was not in the XCOR’s original orbital road map…

Lynx and Contracting Work — Relationship

  • Pace of Lynx is dependent upon how soon they can complete work on other contracts — use profits to fund Lynx work
  • If contract revenue stream continues at its current rate, will be able to build the vehicle without further investment….can’t predict whether if revenue stream will stay constant/increase…
  • work done on the ULA nozzle development directly impacted upon Lynx work — this is the nozzle for the Lynx — every dollar they got from ULA was a dollar they didn’t need to get from an investor
  • other contract work they are doing do not directly advance the Lynx technically but provides profits to put into the Lynx — makes it difficult to predict how fast Lynx will advance
  • XCOR does not accept cost-plus contracts  (audience applauded)

Lynx Status and Details

  • engine testing is going well — engines is NOT the long pole in the tent for Lynx
  • Lynx serves three markets — people, payloads and nanosats
  • Payloads — some will want to fly certain experiment over and over again — make more sense to agree to fly a payload on every flight over a year than to change out the experiments
  • Stood up network of six payload integrators — sales function — payloads need a lot of hand holding
  • Eventually, standard payload integration system will emerge but that time isn’t here yet
  • Wet lease program — they sell one vehicle at a time where Virgin sells one ticket at a time — XCOR has sold two vehicles while Virgin has sold hundreds of reservations, but the companies have similar sales numbers
  • In discussions with a large number of organizations for additional wet leases
  • Individual investment front is beginning to pick up….much better than it was a year ago…
  • Institutional investor — beginning to improve, but investors are not writing big checks to space startups…
  • Will go back to the Huntsville wind tunnels as soon as government reopens from the presumed shutdown…
  • Getting down to very small changes on vehicle design….Air Force is giving them quite a bit of wind tunnel time to explore new parameters — don’t necessarily need them, but good to have it

Regulatory Front

  • Moratorium on FAA regulation is close to expiring….discussion about whether to renew it…
  • Doing more work with the State Department relating export regs….
  • Working well with the State Department personnel…

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