Commercial spaceflights from the proposed spaceport at Ellington Airport, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, could begin by 2018, according to a planning document presented by the Houston Airport System.
A research and business park could be operation by 2016, with visiting flights by space launch systems beginning in 2018 and Ellington-based spaceflight operations in 2020. The timeline appeared in a July 2013 presentation to the Houston City Council by Houston Airport System director of aviation Mario Diaz and senior executive for business development Arturo Machuca.
According to the presentation, Ellington Airport has 675 acres of land available for development. Airside land includes 51 acres of mostly vacant land on the north side accessible by security gate, 439 acres on the southeast side suitable for commercial spaceflight, industrial, and manufacturing, and 83 acres on the west side. In addition, there is 102 acres of non-airside land on the west side, which is available for light industrial, corporate hangars, and other non-residential use.
The Houston Airport System has been studying the Ellington Spaceport concept for the last two years. Studies have included technical feasibility, market assessment, competitive assessment, user needs, demand forecasting, and business-case analysis. Diaz and Machuca presented this conclusion: “Our findings revealed that Houston can be a major contender in commercial spaceflight. There simply is no other large urban market with major aerospace presence with the capability to host a spaceport. There is a huge opportunity for Houston to take the lead in commercial aerospace in the next 10-20 years.”
“We envision that [Ellington Spaceport] could be a focal point for aerospace innovation — a regional center for a cluster of aerospace entities acting as incubators for aerospace innovation and growth. Key aerospace engineering activities could include component and composite development and fabrication and space-vehicle assembly. Commercial activities could include zero-gravity scientific and medical experiments, microsatellites, astronaut training and development, and space tourism.”
A preliminary land use plan shows an “Aeronautical Institute Campus,” along with a variety of aeronautical, mixed-use, fixed-based operator, and cargo buildings. Artist concepts of the proposed spaceport were presented to the public on Wednesday.
The following images show available airport/spaceport land and proposed uses. Click on an image for a larger version.