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June 18, 2020 – HAPSMobile, Inc., a subsidiary of Japan’s telecommunications operator SoftBank Corp., and its partner AeroVironment, Inc. announced new operations center at Spaceport America in New Mexico on June 11.

The companies are developing an unmanned solar-powered High-Altitude Platform Station (HAPS).The stratospheric telecommunications platform, a so-called cell-tower in the sky, is designed to provide better communications to under-served areas, including rural communities.

New Mexico-based construction firm Sandy Jones Contractor was tasked to build the $8 million project at Spaceport America. The project consisted of a 500 x 4,000 foot earthen runway, a seven-acre paved facility, an 80 x 300-foot membrane hangar, and running all the primary power and communication lines needed for the company.

The New Mexico team was able to turn the entire project around in less than four months, employing all local contractors – 65 in total.

“This was one of the largest projects ever built in Sierra County,” said Jones. “Not only did we only use New Mexico workers, all the materials were sourced locally as well. This was a huge boost to our local economy – especially when we’ve been hit so hard with the COVID-19 pandemic. What people don’t understand about the Spaceport is this is just one of the several projects currently underway there.

“This project alone will generate $500,000 in gross receipts tax, and that is huge in this time when our local economy is struggling.”

Jones credits the support his company received from the Governor’s office and various state agencies in having the approvals done in a timely fashion so the project could be completed on time and on budget.

About Spaceport America

Spaceport America (https://www.spaceportamerica.com) is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The FAA-licensed launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, has a rocket friendly environment of 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, low population density, a 12,000-foot runway, vertical launch complexes, and about 340 days of sunshine and low humidity. Some of the most respected companies in the commercial space industry are customers at Spaceport America: Virgin Galactic, Boeing, UP Aerospace, EXOS Aerospace, and SpinLaunch.

Media Contacts:

State of New Mexico
Bruce Krasnow
Bruce.Krasnow@state.nm.us
505-827-0226,
(c)505-795-0119

Spaceport America
Alice Carruth
Alice.Carruth@spaceportamerica.com
575-528-8227

SPACEPORT AMERICA, N.M. – HAPSMobile Inc., a subsidiary of Japan’s telecommunications operator SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) has chosen New Mexico’s Spaceport America for test operations and development of a specialized communications platform designed to provide internet connectivity to hard-to-reach places around the globe, Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced today.

The company, along with its minority owner and aircraft development partner AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), is working on development of the unmanned solar-powered High Altitude Platform Station. The stratospheric telecommunications platform, a so-called cell-tower in the sky, is designed to provide better communications to under-served areas, including rural communities.

A lease for development and flight testing at Spaceport America was signed in March, and an investment into the site is planned.

The work at Spaceport America will help HAPSMobile and AeroVironment obtain government certification for the unmanned aircraft system, which has 260-foot wingspan and is designed to circle in the stratosphere for extended periods of time while carrying a telecommunications payload. It is expected to operate at an altitude of 65,000 feet above sea level.

“This announcement is further evidence that New Mexico’s ambitious vision for Spaceport America is being realized. We’ve always been clear that we were building a platform where visionary companies could develop space-based solutions to all kinds of problems, and it’s gratifying to see that work paying off and to welcome HAPSMobile and AeroVironment to our state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “We look forward to being home to the world’s first cell tower in the sky.”

The companies said the large swath of restricted airspace at Spaceport America, its weather, and proximity to Las Cruces and New Mexico State University make Spaceport an ideal location for flight testing. They also praised New Mexico’s business climate, aerospace workforce, and technical expertise.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department is supporting the expansion with $500,000 from the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) fund. LEDA was created by the Legislature to assist new and expanding businesses with financial support for land, buildings, or infrastructure.

“The business-friendly environment in New Mexico, along with incentives like LEDA and JTIP help us bring forward thinking companies such as HAPSMobile and AeroVironment to New Mexico,” Cabinet Secretary Keyes said. “Add to that the strong aerospace and engineering workforce cluster and we see an important path forward to grow jobs and diversify the economy.”

“The project is an exciting concept that can positively impact communities and relief efforts throughout the world with internet connectivity. We are tremendously proud to have this program, along with their high-tech staff, as our newest collaborator at the Spaceport,” Daniel Hicks, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said. “We’ve been discussing this effort for some time and I believe it was Spaceport America’s professional team, our unique capabilities under WSMR’s restricted airspace, along with our strong partnership with EDD that allowed for a successful site selection for this project.”

Sierra County is the fiscal agent for the LEDA grant. County Manager Bruce Swingle said the community is starting to see real benefits from businesses in and around Spaceport America.

“We’re seeing more people coming and going and more revenue from those people coming into town buying gas and going to stores. These are higher paying jobs that help us diversify the economy,” Swingle said. “We will do everything we can to accommodate them.”

About Spaceport America

Spaceport America is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The FAA-licensed launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, has a rocket friendly environment of 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace – surface to unlimited, low population density, a 12,000-foot spaceway, and 340 days of sunshine and low humidity. Spaceport America is currently home to four full-time tenants- Virgin Galactic, SpinLaunch, AeroVironment and Up Aerospace. We regularly host testing and launches for other customers including Boeing, Exos Aerospace and Sugarhouse Aerospace.

Media Contacts:

State of New Mexico
Bruce Krasnow
Bruce.Krasnow@state.nm.us
505-827-0226,
(c)505-795-0119

Spaceport America
Alice Carruth
Alice.Carruth@spaceportamerica.com
575-528-8227