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Company bets on Yucatán’s place in aerospace

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Rendering: Merida Aerospace

Merida Aerospace, a new company with plans to operate in Yucatán, hopes to build Mexico’s first spaceport and revolutionize the growing space logistics industry.

Merida Aerospace has announced it will deliver spacecraft and satellites to orbit and offer logistical and communication services for the growing aerospace industry.

This ambitious plan seeks to deliver a space logistics framework from a single facility in an effort to cut costs and accelerate research and development.

For now, the company does not have any plans to develop systems capable of delivering people to space, but is rather concentrating to compete in the rapidly expanding space launch and logistics industry currently dominated by companies such as Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Robert Velasco, the chief engineer for Merida Aerospace, said in a phone interview that the company had been planning to begin preliminary operations in 2020, but that timeline was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this point, we are looking to begin work as soon as possible. If everything goes right we could come down to Yucatan and get started as early as February 2021,” he said.

According to Velasco, Merida Aerospace has yet to purchase property in the region or procure the permits necessary for the construction of manufacturing or space launch facilities. However, he added that the company is currently looking to procure real estate near Merida’s industrial park. Regarding plans for the exact location of the proposed launch site, Velasco could only say that the facility would be in a remote region of the state, perhaps near the coast. At this point, all investment for the project comes from private investors in the United States and Mexico.

Though it is unlikely that any space-faring rockets will be launching from Yucatán anytime in the near future, the region has seen growing investment from the international aerospace sector in the last couple of decades. In 2001, PCC Airfoils opened a factory in Mérida’s industrial park where it produces aircraft components such as engines and turbines.

Last June, Yucatán’s governor penned a letter of intent with the Spanish aerospace firm Deimos, which has expressed interest in developing future projects in the region. According to official reports, the first phase of investment would be US$130 million and would include the creation of a facility that would employ 200 specialized engineers and 600 support staff.

Mexico’s national space agency, Agencia Espacial Mexicana, was established in 2010 but does not possess any launch infrastructure. In June 2015, the agency signed a contract to deliver a cargo of an unspecified nature on an Astrobotic Technology lunar lander called Peregrine, scheduled for a 2021 launch.

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