Starchaser Industries Inc. set up business in New Mexico over a year ago, qualifying it as the first private space firm to locate to the region. The group’s U.S. operations are being run from offices in Las Cruces.

“We are very pleased to be here,” said Steve Bennett, Chief Executive Officer for Starchaser Industries. “The 1,200-meter elevation, great weather and close proximity to the restricted airspace controlled by the White Sands Missile Range make for an ideal launch area,” he said.

Starchaser has taken on their first local employees, Bennett added, hiring in the fields of management, educational outreach and sales. They are now on the lookout for people to fill various engineering slots.

The rocket company also is evaluating land options in southern New Mexico with a view to build a research and development and launch vehicle manufacturing plant, he said.

Starchaser Industries also is busy at work on two major engineering efforts dubbed Skybolt and Thunderstar.

Skybolt is a low-cost, reusable liquid-propellant sounding rocket. Its liquid oxygen/kerosene propulsion system, called Storm, will be test fired in March from a military facility in northern England prior to full-duration static firings that will take place in New Mexico.

The company is developing its Thunderstar rocket to launch tourists into suborbital space along a ballistic trajectory. The company hopes to build a fleet of four Thunderstar-class vehicles.

Each spacecraft would have a seating capacity for two crewmembers and up to six fare-paying passengers.

Flights will be priced at around $160,000 per seat and could commence as early as 2008, Bennett said.

Skybolt is being designed to launch re-entry bodies to gain data for the Thunderstar project. It is also on tap to fly a number of related systems in support of Starchaser’s overall space tourism initiative.

The first Skybolt rocket is scheduled for launch out of the New Mexico spaceport in early 2007.

Bennett also said the relatively low acceleration of the Skybolt system makes it ideal for lofting delicate payloads, like crystal growth experiments, that could not normally be flown on a traditional sounding rocket.

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