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Las Cruces Bulletin
Dumitiru Popescu spent about 24 hours on planes and in airports on his way from Romania to Las Cruces.
He said the trip was well worth all the time being spent in a flying tube with wings.
In fact, flying tubes with wings — an oversimplification of course — are the main reason he left Eastern Europe for the desert of southwestern New Mexico. His company, ARCA Space Corporation, is an aerospace research and development company and will produce its AirStrato unmanned aerial vehicle in a new, 14,000-square foot facility to be built at the Las Cruces International Airport.
“This area is the best choice we could have possibly made,” Popescu said Monday, July 13 at an event to announce the news at a hanger at the airport. “We promise to create at least 100, high-paying jobs.”
Gov. Susanna Martinez spoke at the event and said the average salary will be about $52,000. She said the state was able to use $500,000 in closing funds to help lure ARCA.
“They are one of the most well-known companies in private space flight,” Martinez said.
Dennis Zaklan, deputy director of the NMSU UAS Flight Test Center, said ARCA and NMSU partnering is significant for the next chapter of UAS. ARCA has the first medium- altitude long-endurance UAS and with an ultimate goal of developing a high-altitude UAS.
“As UAS has progressed and some of the technical issues with the FAA get solved, then medium-altitude and high-altitude UAS will be the future,” Zaklan said. “We’re truly looking forward to having them here and working closely with them.”
Popescu pointed out that ARCA started out with very little capital in 1999 but when on to launch 15 flight missions and have secured millions of dollars in government and European Space Agency contracts.
“We are bringing to Las Cruces a well-known aerospace brand,” he said. “So please allow me to ask you this—if we could manage to do all of this in Europe, a place where it is difficult to test and fly aerospace vehicles, imagine what we could do in New Mexico?”
Popescu also said while others may see only the endless desert of New Mexico he envisioned something much different.
“We see a great treasure — a place to safely test new vehicles and technologies for aviation and space exploration,” he said. “So here we are prepared to push the envelope for our aerospace vehicles, AirStrato, our unmanned aerial system, and for the Haas rocket series.”
Craig Buchanan, chairman of the board of directors for the Mesilla Valley Development Alliance, said it took a collaborative effort to bring ARAC to Las Cruces.
“This story had its beginnings about 10 years ago (at the Physical Science Lab at New Mexico State University),” Buchanan said. He said MVEDA, the City of Las Cruces and the State Economic Development Office were pivotal in the process.
City Councillor Nathan Small said Las Cruces and Doña Ana County can become the headquarters for the aerospace industry.
“We create jobs through working together,” Smalls said.
Tiffany Acosta of NMSU contributed to this story. Brook Stockberger may be reached at 680-1977 or brook@lascrucesbulletin.