Tucson Blast-off. TMT Shutout. Bob Zimmerman, BehindtheBlack.com.

Oct 15, 2016, 05:23 AM

Friday October 14, 2016 (Photo: ‪Vector Space Systems Successfully Launches Sub-Orbital Satellite Prototype with 3D Printed Injector)

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Tucson Blast-off. TMT Shutout. Bob Zimmerman, BehindtheBlack.com.

Vector Space Systems to open Tucson facility October 13, 2016 at 8:38 am Robert Zimmerman The competition heats up: Vector Space Systems has decided to build a rocket manufacturing facility in Tucson. The Tucson-based company is expected to create 200 jobs locally within three years of beginning operations, at an average annual salary of $70,000. It could employ as many as 500 people within five years as production ramps up, said its co-founder and CEO, Jim Cantrell. Vector plans to invest roughly $19 million during the first three years, and possibly as much as $50 million over the next 15 years, according to Pima County officials. The total direct economic impact of the facility could be $290 million over five years, says an analysis by Phoenix-based Applied Economics completed for Sun Corridor Inc., the local economic-development agency. The company plans to build 36,000 square feet of office space and another 40,000 square feet for manufacturing south of Tucson International Airport. The company already has several million in smallsat launch contracts, plus options for $160 million more once they begin producing rockets.

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TMT considers alternative sites to Hawaii October 12, 2016 at 9:36 am Robert Zimmerman Faced with a continuing legal battle to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), the consortium running is now seriously considering alternative sites. Potential Northern Hemisphere sites include San Pedro Mártir in Baja California in Mexico and Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma, a Spanish island off the Atlantic coast of Morocco. “Our friends in La Palma are pushing hard” to get the TMT, says Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C. But neither alternative matches the seeing conditions on Mauna Kea, and they would bring extra cost and complication. The project has already ruled out sites in the Himalayas, put forward by India and China—both TMT partners along with the United States, Japan, and Canada—because they are too far from ports and have short construction seasons.

The TMT governors are expected to choose their top alternative site later this month. Regardless of what happens in Hawaii, the governors have vowed to start construction—on Mauna Kea or elsewhere—no later than April 2018. It is clear that Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the best location. Unfortunately, they are faced with the reality that there might be years of delays before they ever get permission to build, if they get permission at all.