Houston Spaceport slowly turning dream into reality

August 1st, 2019

Taking part in the Spaceport groundbreaking were, from left, Houston City Councilman Mike Knox, Intuitive Machines President Steve Altemus, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Houston Airport System Executive Director Mario Diaz, Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca and FAA Deputy Regional Administrator Rob Lowe.

By Mary Alys Cherry

The Houston Spaceport has been a dream for the past four years. Now it is moving toward reality after a groundbreaking ceremony June 28 for the first phase of the project at Ellington Field.

“When complete, Phase 1 will provide the ground work to support the companies that produce the cutting-edge innovations needed to take commercial space travel and aviation into the sub-sonic, super-sonic and hyper-sonic realm,” Diaz said, no doubt remembering a day four years ago on June 30, 2015, when Houston received its license from the FAA and became the nation’s ninth spaceport.

Phase 1 of the project required an $18.8 million investment to provide the ground level infrastructure – streets, electrical power, water, wastewater, fiber optic and communication facilities — to attract commercial space travel and aviation companies to Houston. That came in May when Houston City Council approved the funds.

Joining Diaz in turning the first shovels of dirt were Ellington Airport Director Arturo Machuca, Houston City Councilman Mike Knox, San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus and FAA Deputy Regional Administrator Rob Lowe.

Altemus’ Intuitive Machines, is the first company to sign on as a Spaceport tenant. Back in May, the company received a $77.2 million contract from NASA to create, launch and land its Nova-C lunar lander spacecraft to the surface of the moon with a payload of experiments from both NASA and private companies.

And then there is the need for training, for which the Spaceport has partnered with San Jacinto College. To help train that workforce, San Jacinto Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, says the Spaceport’s Edge Center for Advanced Manufacturing Training will serve as a workforce training center, providing a talent pipeline for new businesses.

“When you’re bringing in and trying to recruit new companies to the area, they need to know you have partners like that at the table to meet their needs,” Hellyer said.

Meanwhile, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell could hardly conceal his excitement as he spoke to the group.

“We are currently working with six companies which are looking to expand operations at the Houston Spaceport,” he said. “The Houston Spaceport’s certification is already acting as a catalyst to spur new interest and development at Ellington Airport.

“Over the last several years, more than $200 million worth of new projects have been  completed, or announced, at Ellington Airport, including the Lone Star Flight Museum,  the new Army Innovation Command … and its battle command center. New public hangars are under construction … and the new 117,000 square foot U.S. Coast Guard regional campus, a $57 million investment, has been completed and further expanded. Today marks a great day for Houston, for Ellington Airport and for the Houston Spaceport!

Houston receives $1 million grant for Spaceport infrastructure

February 23rd, 2017

The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded the City of Houston a $1 million Economic Development Administration grant to build some of the necessary infrastructure required for the planned Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport, Mayor Sylvester Turner has announced.

“This grant is another sign of the serious attention our project is receiving,” Mayor Turner said.  “Houston has always been at the forefront of aerospace-related advances.  We are continuing to lead the way with the Houston Spaceport.”

The Federal Aviation Administration granted a launch site license to the Houston Airport System in July 2015 to enable Ellington Airport to establish itself as a launch site for Reusable Launch Vehicles, making Houston Spaceport the 10th commercial spaceport in the United States.

Currently in Phase 1 of development, the Houston Spaceport recently acquired a 53k square-foot facility. Its first tenant is Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which is currently developing drone technology.

Future plans include attracting additional aerospace and aviation companies to begin operations from the facility to advance Houston’s position as a leader in the aerospace industry.

“The momentum behind Houston Spaceport continues to build,” says, Houston Aviation Director Mario Diaz.  “There is limitless potential for aerospace activity at Ellington Airport and that fact is now being recognized on a broad scale, both by our partners within the U.S. Government and representatives from the private sector.”

The City of Houston sought funding from the EDA, which provides grants for projects that will spur economic development and create jobs for residents.  Last year, Diaz hosted a roundtable at Ellington Airport with Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams, Congressman Pete Olson, Councilmember Dave Martin and representatives of the business community.  This roundtable highlighted the potential for the Spaceport to spur innovation and create new jobs with local universities partnering to provide job training and engage in research and technology transfer.

The Houston Airport System has partnered with several state and local universities to engage in research, and job training in the aerospace sector to provide a skilled local workforce for employment opportunities created by this investment.

For more information on Houston Spaceport, visit www.fly2houstonspaceport.com or contact Houston Spaceport General Manager Arturo Machuca at Arturo.machuca@houstontx.gov

Bay Area Houston Magazine