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!