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To Outer Space We Go

by Ruth Ann Ruiz
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By Ruth Ann Ruiz

The Post Newspaper Features Editor

Spaceport Houston, once just an idea and 1,900 acres with lots of grass, is now a rapidly developing center for space travel industries and space flights. Its location is on what was once the Ellington Air Force Base, now known as Ellington Airport.

“Houston Spaceport is making great progress and Galveston and Harris Counties have been very supportive of us,” said Arturo Machuca, Director, Ellington Airport and Houston Spaceport. 

Commercial space travel is happening. Providing a location for the developing industry was ripe for the picking and Houston’s city leaders jumped on the bandwagon, securing a spaceport certification in 2015.

In the midst of a metropolitan area, Spaceport Houston will be launching horizontal spacecraft rather than vertical craft. After take-off from Ellington, the spacecraft will head south towards the gulf waters and release their rocket boosters, then ascend into the upper atmosphere. 

One day Spaceport Houston will host a space terminal with space craft lining up for take-off and landings, similar to an airport. 

Launching spacecraft is only a part of the growing process in space travel. As our society braces for a future with commercial space travel, aerospace companies need a location with an ecosystem that meets their needs. 

“Commercial space flight is the ultimate goal, but we realized as a spaceport we have little control over when the launchings would happen and we worked to create an environment with easy access to everything an aerospace business would need to attract them to Houston’s Spaceport,” said Machuca. 

Since 2015, a lot has been happening at the repurposed military base. Spaceport Houston is in phase one of its development and has several major tenants who are developing all things needed for space travel. 

Intuitive Machines is busy working on launching what will be the first unmanned spacecraft to land on the moon.  The projected date for lunching is spring 2023. Of course, they will launch in Florida, but it is being designed and built right here in our backyard. 

America has not landed a spacecraft on the moon since 1972.

Venus Aerospace focuses on hypersonic technology. Venus has set up operations at Spaceport. For now, their facility is a bit small but will be grown to a full-scale modern facility, bringing new jobs into the region. 

Axiom Space, which is developing the world’s first commercial space station, broke ground for their new long-term headquarters in May 2022. Once the building on Ellington is finished, they will provide astronaut training, mission control facilities, engineering development and testing labs and a high bay production facility to house their space station modules under construction. 

Collins Aerospace, who designed Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit, opened a facility at Ellington in August 2022. Their spaceport facility will continue research and development of several key space systems, including the next-generation spacesuit which could be worn by astronauts during spacewalk expeditions. 

Collins along with Axiom, have been awarded a $3.5 billion contract for developing new space suits, according to Manchuca. 

AstroAccess completed their first test flight for individuals with physical limitations in late December. They launched and landed at Houston’s Spaceport. The flight was in a Zero-G aircraft and ascended to 25,000 feet. Crew onboard the flight included individuals who were blind, deaf and with mobility limitations. 

One major purpose of the flight was to conduct research for creating an inclusive future in space travel. Crew members participated in research to enhance inclusiveness in space flight. 

While in a zero-gravity, flight research was conducted on the effects of weightlessness when using American Sign Language. Mobility challenged and blind crew were able to get into their launch seats and fasten the five-point harness unassisted. The blind crew worked on research pertaining to graphics to be added to the spacecraft walls for assisting both blind and seeing passengers. 

Growth of Spaceport will require a labor force ready to work in the aerospace industry.

Training for the future industry of space travel is happening on the premises at Spaceport through a partnership with San Jacinto College. This partnership is expanding with the growing needs for trained workers. 

Soon, Houston Spaceport will host a facility with researchers and students from Rice University, University of Houston-Clear Lake, and Texas Southern University. Other Texas universities are keeping their options open for locating research facilities to Houston’s Spaceport. 

The enthusiasm for spaceport is in the air and beyond as the ground team works to bring in more tenants and provide the infrastructure needed for the future. (Houston’s Spaceport is operated by Houston Airports). 

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