Intuitive Machines: The Future is HERE

July 2nd, 2019

Steve Altemus hoists the lightweight long range drone coming off the drone production line at Ellington Airport. Photography by MoonBridge Media

Intuitive Machines’ 12 foot high Nova-C lunar lander model. Photography by MoonBridge Media

By Rick Clapp

Intuitive Machines is an incredibly unique space and aviation company located on the Space Port Facility at Ellington Field in Houston. The company was founded in 2013 by president and CEO Steve Altemus with the goal of bringing decades of human spaceflight know-how, technology advances, and innovative thinking into low-cost solutions aimed at serving the complex needs of our world. Since then, Altemus has steered the company back to his passion, space, with the objective of taking the space business to new frontiers.

Steve Altemus started his journey into space and aviation as a student at the Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, where he originally wanted to pursue a career as an aviator. A few years later, he graduated with an Aeronautical Engineering Degree and later earned a Masters Degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Inside the mobile command center for lunar propolsion testing. Photography by MoonBridge Media

Upon graduating from Embry Riddle, he soon found himself up the coast of Florida at the Kennedy Space Center. That’s where Altemus’ career took off into space. After several years at the Kennedy Space center he was promoted to manage the space shuttle launch countdown. He directed the many successful shuttle operations over the years and then unfortunately the Columbia Shuttle disaster occurred. Altemus was assigned to reconstruct over 85,000 pieces of the shuttle. For his efforts in completing this arduous task , he was promoted by NASA to head the engineering directorate at the Johnson Space Center culminating with a position as deputy director of the Johnson Space Center. After 25 incredible years with NASA, Altemus had the desire to revolutionize the space business and he founded Intuitive Machines.

“At Intuitive Machines, we take ideas from concept to completion. We engineer systems starting from concept, through design and development, build and test.” Altemus says.
Intuitive Machines has three major areas of specialization, Aviation, Space Systems, and Additive Manufacturing and Generative Design. They all work in unison to produce outstanding engineering wonders.

Well-deserved congratulations go to Altemus and his team of nearly 90 employees and interns, for earning the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract as one of the first US companies to provide commercial services to the Moon. As part of NASA’s Artemis Program, Intuitive Machines will land NASA-provided payloads on the surface of the Moon to conduct science investigations and demonstrate advanced technologies, paving the way for astronauts to land successfully on the moon by 2024.

Intuitive Machines accomplished this tremendous feat in less than six years, which is nothing but remarkable.

“It is incredibly exciting and coincidental that 50 years ago Houston landed Apollo 11 on the lunar surface and this year, Houston-based

Intuitive Machines was awarded the contract to return NASA to the moon. We look forward to developing our systems and flying our missions to the moon from where it all started right here in Houston,” Altemus said.

On a personal note, Steve Altemus is a wonderful family man, married to his wife, Brunella, for over 30 years. His daughter, Dr. Samantha, is a resident veterinarian and internist at OSU. His son Joseph is a mechanical engineer who builds robots for Jacobs Engineering.

Houston we do not have a problem, Intuitive Machines is taking US back to the moon!!

Thanks to the pioneer spirit of the people at NASA and the talented, creative contractor Intuitive Machines, we will continue further our space travels to the Moon, Mars and beyond. God Bless America.

Altemus shows the inside of their 3D printer where stainless steel engine parts are built. Photography by MoonBridge Media

Chamber board opposes oil tank farm in Clear Lake

September 26th, 2018

The Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has unanimously voted to oppose the proposed development of a oil storage tank farm between Interstate 45 South and Highway 3 near FM 2351. The vote came during a board meeting Sept. 18.

The Chamber directors said in a press release to Bay Area Houston Magazine that they strongly believe the installation of these tanks has the potential to impact air traffic at Ellington Field and present a hazard along a high-traffic runway, as well as, residential neighborhoods. “The storage of oil and petroleum products should be located in an industrialized, low-traffic area, not in close proximity to neighborhoods, high-traffic roads, parks, and schools,” the board said in a statement it issued.

The directors said they would like to encourage the community to stay informed about this project, to ensure the failure of the proposal so the property can be used for more impactful, high local value projects such as ones complimenting the Ellington Spaceport and the Innovation Interstate or to improve traffic by the creation of a new road, adding that “It’s the Chamber’s mission to be ‘Champions for business success and quality of life’ throughout Clear Lake/Bay Area Houston.”

Governor helps honor area’s first responders

September 1st, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand when the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce hosted a dinner to honor first responders for their hard work during Hurricane Harvey.

Several hundred attended the event, which was held at the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Field in the hangers with military planes and helicopters. Many dignitaries were present including area legislators and Hilton Koch, owner of Hilton Furniture.

The setting was very impressive. Guests were greeted with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, after which they enjoyed dinner and Governor Abbott recognized the many first responders who helped thousands of victims during the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The Lone Star Flight Museum is located at 11551 Aerospace Ave. at Ellington Field and is a great venue for parties and events. Katie Jackman, the chief marketing officer, will be happy to help you book your next event.

Bay Area leaves its mark on the Texas Legislature

May 1st, 2017

Bay Area Houston community leaders arrive at the Texas Capitol in Austin to promote education and a number of other subjects. In all, about 300 business people, residents and educators made the trip – some more than once.

By Mary Alys Cherry

The Texas Legislature may seem rather far removed from life in Bay Area Houston.

However, you can rest assured that our area has left its mark on Austin thinking this legislative session as dozens and dozens of local business people, astronauts and aerospace executives, mariners, chemical engineers, educators and everyday housewives – about 300 in all – have made their voices heard in the Texas Capitol during visits over a span of several days.

Target topics included education, the maritime jobs preservation, Ellington Field, the state franchise tax, healthcare, the Texas Spaceport Trust Fund, Texas Aerospace Scholars and storm surge protection.

Besides the bus loads led by Clear Lake Chamber President Cindy DeWease, League City Chamber President Steve Paterson and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell going up to Austin, many went by car.

State Legislator Dennis Paul and his district director, Debra Risinger, center, explains the current workings of the Texas House and Senate to Chris and Dawn McDonald, left, and Judge Holly Williamson and Tom Boone to the capitol in Austin.

A GOOD EXPERIENCE
“As champions for business success and quality of life in our community advocacy is one of our top priorities,” the Clear Lake Chamber CEO said. “The impact that this biennial trip by representatives from our business community has on our state senators and representatives is significant and we thank all those involved,” she added.

BAHEP’s Mitchell agreed. “We had very successful meetings on both days of our trip to Austin and feel that our messages were heard and understood. The priorities we discussed must be legislatively addressed as necessary for the continued growth of the region. Due to the budget shortfall, we are justifiably concerned about the future of Texas Aerospace Scholars and the Technology Outreach Program and hope that a resolution can be found to continue these worthwhile programs.”

The League City Chamber president thinks “the feedback from our group was very good and included comments such as ‘meaningful, eventful, illuminating’ shared with us. The group was enthused that they were able to play a part in the process. It was wonderful working with experienced partners like the Clear Lake Area Chamber…and BAHEP…”

Other area chamber officials in the mix included Galveston County Economic Development Director Bix Rathburn, Texas City/La Marque Chamber President Jenny Sentor and Galveston Chamber President Gina Spagnola.  Plus representatives from NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

MANY EDUCATORS
Some of the better known voices legislators heard from in the education field were UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, College of the Mainland President Dr. Warren Nichols and San Jac Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer; Clear Creek, Friendswood and Pasadena ISD Superintendents Dr. Greg Smith, Trish Hanks and Dr. DeeAnn Powell  and La Porte Deputy Superintendent Linda Wadleigh; plus CCISD School Board President Dr. Laura DuPont and Communications Director Elaina Polsen, Communities in Schools-Bay Area CEO Dr. Peter Wuenschel and Clear Creek Education Foundation Director Kaci Hanson – there to plead for funds for public schools and workforce development, plus community colleges and universities.

Joining them were League City Mayor Pat Hallisey, Kemah Mayor Carl Joiner and Interim Police Administrator Chris Reed, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin, Taylor Lake Village Councilman Bob Davee, Kemah Councilman Kyle Burkes, Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark, South Shore Harbour Resort GM Roy Green, Amoco Credit Union President Shawn Bailey, Gulf Coast Educators Credit Union President Jamieson Mackey, attorney Randy Ashby, Memorial Hermann Government Relations Director Ashlea Quinonez of Memorial Hermann, Bay Area Regional Medical Center Vice President Santiago Mendoza Jr., and retired JSC Human Resources Director Harv Hartman.

Each spent a day meeting with legislators while many made several trips and spent multiple trips trying to help our communities.

Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, from left, and Deputy Director Mark Geyer join Houston City Councilman Dave Martin and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell in the legislature chambers during Space Day at the Capitol.

SPACE DAY
NASA sponsored Space Day to celebrate space exploration and its achievements with Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, JSC Deputy Director Mark Geyer and astronaut Rex Walheim on hand to explain the many space exhibits – the International Space Station, Orion, the Commercial Crew Program — and visit with the many Bay Area residents who call this their favorite day.

Walking around the Capitol, it didn’t take long before one would bump into someone from here. Folks like John Martinec, who carried the banner for the Ellington Field Task Force initiative; Greg Allison, who has worked for a number of years trying to help the local maritime industry; Mark Rush, who was there to remind legislators of the State Franchise Tax drawbacks; Ashlea Quinonez of Memorial Hermann, who pointed out how hospitals are not being compensated by either the state or federal governments; and Bob Mitchell, who led a discussion on funding for the proposed Coastal Spine to protect our area from storm surge – all to make our lives better.

Ellington Airport’s new air traffic control tower

December 14th, 2015

airtrafficcontrol

The Houston Airport System received notification that it has been awarded a $3.1 million state grant to assist in building a new air traffic control tower at Ellington Airport.

The Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant will help cover the cost of designing and constructing the new tower, including a utility building, utility yard and parking area, and the purchase and installation of navigational and communication equipment necessary for effective operation.

The grant will help cover $2 million of the construction cost; more than $1 million will help cover the cost of equipping the facility. The final estimated cost of the project is more than $7 million.

The current tower at Ellington was built in the mid-1950s and sustained structural damage in 2008 during Hurricane Ike. City of Houston engineers determined it not cost effective to repair the current tower and, while emergency repairs were made, the existing tower still is vulnerable and cannot likely sustain the impact of future storm force winds.

Without an operating control tower, the continuation of all Ellington Joint Reserve Base military and aviation missions, and all other general aviation activities, will be in question. The Ellington JRB is utilized by the Texas Air National Guard, Texas Army National Guard and the Coast Guard as aviation operational centers and hubs of distribution supporting federal and state civil authorities.

The newly constructed tower will enable the JRB to provide air traffic services and ensure timely and safe establishment of aviation operational centers by the military services, as well as support the continuation of all aviation missions, safely, in a high traffic area of mixed high performance military and civilian commercial air traffic.

“This is an important step forward for Ellington Airport, and a critical project to ensure the vital aviation operations based there can be carried out safely and efficiently,” Houston Aviation Director Mario Diaz said.

The new tower will be built adjacent to the current tower, which will remain in use until the new structure is completed. Once completed, it not only will support the military operations, but also enhance the service available to general aviation and the Houston Spaceport project.

“Construction of this tower shows the commitment the Houston Airport System has to Ellington and its future,” said Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca, “and furthers our support for our military partners at Ellington.”

Requests for proposals will go out early in 2016, with construction slated to begin next summer and be completed by late summer 2017. The new tower is scheduled to open in early fall 2017.