New Mexico Delegation Encourages Boeing To Conduct Phantom Express Development Contract At Spa, WSMR

Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, and U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich encouraged Boeing to conduct the Phantom Express development contract at Spaceport America (SPA) with support of White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).

“New Mexico offers a number of strategic advantages for Boeing’s spaceplane contract, and I’m confident that a partnership with Spaceport America and White Sands Missile Range will lead to the successful completion of this program. These sites have the necessary infrastructure in place, including access to essential technologies, an able and ready workforce, incomparable access to airspace, and other testing capabilities to support operations and our nation’s security interests,” said Rep. Pearce. “New Mexico has unique geographic benefits that will allow it to continue to grow as an exemplary location for training and testing projects going forward. In addition, New Mexico has a long history in the space sector, including NASA’s White Sands division which has supported every U.S. manned space mission to date. As Boeing moves forward in their scoping phase, it is my hope that they will seriously consider New Mexico to home their new spaceplane project. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the New Mexico delegation, local governments, and necessary agencies to advance the commercial space sector.”

“As we noted in our letter, there are a number of advantages that New Mexico offers as Boeing looks for the optimal site for this project – ideal flying weather, unhindered airspace, and proven long-term relationships with national labs and other national security initiatives in our state,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

“Boeing already has a significant presence and investment in New Mexico with its directed energy and space research," Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. "I encourage Boeing to build on those investments and make New Mexico a central part of its aerospace strategy. This is exactly the type of investment we need to help jump-start and create a sustainable economy.” 

“New Mexico’s restricted airspace, technical workforce, decades of experience working with NASA, and the inland location of the Spaceport make it the ideal location for Boeing to conduct the Phantom Express development contract,” Senator Udall said. “Boeing’s XS-1 is well prepared to take advantage of the first mile above sea level with a reusable launch proposal well suited for New Mexico’s spaceport. Our nation has a need to continue to develop strategic inland space launch capabilities, and a partnership between Boeing, White Sands Missile Range and Spaceport America would support both our national security and the growth and development of commercial space. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the delegation, our federal agencies, the state and local governments on this project and other efforts to strengthen our national security and New Mexico’s vital federal installations.”

“Our state has long been the frontier of space exploration. With assets such as Spaceport America, our national laboratories, and innovative research universities, New Mexico is uniquely positioned to help propel the commercial space industry forward,” said Senator Heinrich. “As Boeing continues the scoping process, I hope they will consider New Mexico as a partner and destination for its Phantom Express development contract.  I will continue to support efforts that strengthen commercial spaceflight industry in New Mexico, and create jobs and bolster our economy.”

Boeing was awarded the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) XS-1 Spaceplane Contract that has been named the “Phantom Express.” This is a joint P3 with DARPA and Boeing with the purpose of developing a reusable space aircraft that can deploy medium payload for a cheaper cost. Currently, Boeing is in the scoping phase for deciding a primary site for the XS-1 program.

A PDF of the letter can be found here. Text is below. 

Steven P. Johnston

Director – Launch, Phantom Works

The Boeing Company

5301 Bolsa Ave

Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Dear Steven Johnston,

Congratulations on being awarded the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) XS-1 spaceplane contract. We are confident that your aerospace experience combined with support from key agencies will lead to successful completion of this program, which will improve our National Security and the commercial space sector. 

We understand that you are in final deliberations for selecting a site to execute this contract. We strongly encourage you to consider developing a partnership with White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and Spaceport America (SPA) to support this important venture for our Nation.

The SPA facility in New Mexico has a number of strategic advantages, which include:

  1. Restricted airspace over WSMR/SPA, which is controlled by the Department of Defense (DOD), has 24/7 space access. This factor alone goes a long way towards achieving the strenuous ten flights in ten days stipulation in the contract. The restricted airspace coupled with an ideal flying environment (340+ days of clear skies) and high altitude at WSMR/SPA will minimize scheduling delays compared to any other location in the country.
  2. The technical workforce at WSMR has a tremendous legacy of supporting complex DARPA Research Development Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) efforts for our military. Their positive attitude, range experience on developmental programs, along with SPA support will be a force multiplier that is uniquely suited to ensure your success.
  3. WSMR recently conducted an Expected Casualties and Probability of Casualty (Ec/Pc) assessment that is well within the required Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) parameters to successfully launch the thirteenth and final demonstration flight of an orbital payload to Low Earth Orbit. Their experience with long range, off range, and hypersonic corridors is ideal for continued programs after Phantom Express development is complete. Their studies include multiple corridors for most orbital inclinations including polar.
  4. WSMR has had a sixty plus year relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), whom currently operates a 1,000 person team out of one of its testing facility. NASA’s satellite installation develops and tests space technologies for propulsion systems. The division also aids in industrial firms RDTE, giving organizations a cost efficient option for testing and developing space technologies.
  5. Strategically our nation is in need of an inland Spaceport for multiple reasons. There are security perspectives as we move forward in time that will require an inland location. Spaceport America’s location provides unique DOD connections for operationally responsive space initiatives and other critical missions important to our nation’s space capabilities and ultimately our operational success.

From a resiliency perspective, we believe strongly that our nation needs to obtain strategic inland space launch capabilities and are confident that your organization would greatly benefit from this type of joint venture. We are committed to working with various federal agencies and the commercial sector to ensure that the billions of dollars that have been spent at WSMR, SPA, and the surrounding area are leveraged to support our National Security interests such as the XS-1 spaceplane and other commercial space enterprises.

We understand that there will be a strong commercial application for the Phantom Express. There are many advantages to operating at a site with ideal flying weather that is a mile above sea level, and provides unhindered airspace access for your projected commercial tempo. We sincerely hope you decide to conduct the Phantom Express development contract at SPA with the support of WSMR. We believe this is the best strategic decision for your long-term space success. We look forward to hearing back from you and to assist you in any way possible as you come to a final decision.     


U.S. Representative Steve Pearce

U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan

U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham

U.S. Senator Tom Udall

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich