By Lance Winter
Luling, known as the toughest town in Texas, is gradually changing it business complexion and becoming known as a budding place for the aerospace industry.
X-BOW — headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M. — committed $25 million to expand its operations by creating a rocket manufacturing campus in Luling at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, February 24.
“This is a new 21st century advanced solid rocket motor manufacturing task and integration campus,” said Jason Hundley, CEO a founder. “It is new. We have a brand-new patent pending technology process that we are putting here in Central Texas in Luling. It has never been done before.”
Hundley said he couldn’t stress enough that power solid rocket motors are being depleted at a rate not seen since World War II.
“We have depleted in one year, stockpiles the military considered to be good for a decade. There are national studies going on right that reveal it’s going to take us a decade to 15 years to replenish what we just let off,” Hundley said. “It looks to me like the accelerator pedal is pushing forward, not backwards. That’s a disastrous kind of crisis for the world. What it says is what we are building may not be enough. We may have totally under scoped what we were thinking we were bringing to the nation. But we know what we are bringing into Luling today is desperately needed; it’s a tactical, strategic and hypersonic solid rocket motors.”
During Friday’s event, Hundley prepped those attending for an upcoming demonstration of a solid rocket motor test.
“It’s a test of our advanced technology, the motor brain was produced by our manufacturing solid propellant technology. It was shipped from New Mexico to Texas. It is a test of new technology; it may not work,” Hundley said. “We started off doing several excitingly unsuccessful tests. When solid rocket motors are unsuccessful, there are things like shrapnel debris. But we have highly trained professionals, so we think it'll go well. We've been successful over the last few months.”
Hundley said this was unique manufacturing technology that allows them the ability to “footprint it” in such a small area.
“What we have done is adapt 21st century methodology, today. If this was 30 or 40 years ago, we would be in a much larger area, and looking at a much different technology to footprint here,” he said.
That footprint he’s referencing previously served as the Caldwell County Carter Memorial Airport which was shuttered last year.
Hundley said they should have several hundred employees over the next several years as the campus builds and becomes fully operational.
“Between technicians, engineers, chemists, program management, integration, system engineering, test engineering, the full gamut of aerospace and commercial space and technology disciplines are going to be local jobs here in this area,” Hundley said. “We hope that that spurs some of the universities to look at workforce training. We want to be part of the community growing that pipeline here.”
Retired NASA astronaut Charles Precourt, part of X-BOWS strategic team of advisors, said innovation is critical.
“I would echo a couple of things Jason mentioned about how the country is in need of an increased capacity for systems like this and at the same time, we have to use innovative ways to get there so that it become ever more affordable,” Precourt said. “I’m, excited for him, and the work they’ve put in over the last many years is pretty impressive.”
Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said he was excited with X-BOWS commitment to both Luling and Caldwell County.
“It checks all the boxes,” Haden said. “Its manufacturing, its high tech, its industrial. All the things that we have — five years ago — focused our efforts on. They encompass that all in one nice bow. It's incredibly important for Luling to have an industry like this. For decades, almost 100 years, it's been oil and it's been agriculture. So, we recognize that diversification is needed both here and Lockhart.”