Houston Spaceport opens doors to expand commercial aerospace industry

KPRC 2 takes viewers inside to see the spaceport’s latest developments

HOUSTON, Texas – Space City is home to rapid development, and when it comes to the aerospace industry, there is lots of it.

The Houston Spaceport is opening new doors for innovation. Co-located at Ellington Airport, the ever-evolving property is welcoming new aerospace and aviation tenants, taking on projects headed to the moon and beyond.

The Spaceport is owned and managed by the Houston Airport System and brands itself as the world’s first truly urban commercial spaceport.

“We are doing things that some thought were not possible here,” Houston Spaceport Director and GM of the Houston Airport System’s Ellington Airport Arturo Machuca said.

KPRC 2 at Houston's Spaceport (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The spaceport was Machuca’s brainchild.

Taking a cue from the early workings of NASA’s Commercial Crew program nine years ago, Machuca saw the need and an opportunity to develop the commercial aerospace industry and the aerospace workforce in Space City.

“Back in 2012, we began looking into the flexibility of creating a spaceport in Houston,” he said. “At the time when we began there were those naysayers that thought this was not possible. Well, we got on with the project, we conducted all the studies and analysis that was necessary and we were able to confirm that it was possible.”

And nine years later, the Houston Spaceport is still soaring ahead.

“As we speak, we have contracts in our books that account for about 700,000 sq feet of new construction. This construction is not just the building, but the 1,500 jobs it will create,” Machuca said.

Some of the major tenants include Intuitive Machines, Collins Aerospace and Axiom.

“Spaceport Houston is phenomenal. It’s our home. It gives us a sense of community,” Founder and CEO of Intuitive Machines Steve Altemus said.

The Spaceport is rich with space history, tapping into the resources that exist in a city with a deep history in space.

Intuitive Machines is the first tenant and has made quite a footprint on the spaceport.

It’s there where they are building its Nova C Lunar Lander which is expected to land on the moon in 2022.

Altemus is the former Johnson Space Center Deputy Director and a NASA human spaceflight engineer.

“I had a 25-year wonderful career at NASA. [I] started at the Kennedy Space Center where I launched space shuttles for a living, and then I moved to the Johnson Space Center and I ran human spaceflight engineering for about a decade before retiring and forming Intuitive Machines,” Altemus said. “We’re all about going to the moon, landing on the moon, orbiting around the moon, communicating on the moon.”

The Spaceport is federally licensed for horizontal launches, so no rocket launches will be seen at the site, but the space can facilitate valuable ground for testing and other lower-level flights. A major part of the Houston Spaceport Houston Aerospace Support Center is innovation.

The Spaceport also provides resources to its tenants. At the Houston Spaceport, Intuitive Machines is able to build and test components of the Nova C Lunar Lander, a huge asset to the company.

“Their business is space and things that are more complicated,” Machuca said. “The roadways, the sewage, the electric power, we do all that for them. We’ve created the neighborhood.”

“The Houston Spaceport is phenomenal. It’s our home. It gives us a sense of community,” Altemus said. “When we get core companies working together at a common location, we get synergies. We get expertise. We attract talent. We create good jobs for everybody.”

The spaceport will soon be home to Collins Aerospace and Axiom which are currently set to build their empire on Houston Spaceport property. There, they will each work on their contributions to space including building parts of the International Space Station among other feats.

However, the Houston Spaceport is also a site for learning. Local educational institutions are working with the spaceport to develop viable and realistic training programs to build the workforce that the aerospace companies need. San Jacinto College created The EDGE Center, working with the industry to create the best hands-on training.

“They let us know what they needed, and that’s what we’ve developed here,” Janis Fowler, San Jacinto College Aerospace Education & Workforce Development Director, said.

“It’s unbelievable the speed that we’ve been moving at,” San Jacinto College Workforce Development Dean Ken Tidwell said. “The student can get that training, both knowledge training and hands-on skills, partner with one of our industry partners through internships and right into employment. There’s no place else in the country that can do this.”

Machuca said spaceport has some major future plans including building a taxiway and future resources for tenants. The ultimate goal is to create the foundation for the future of commercial spaceflight.