Space, the final frontier; the voyages of the Houston Spaceport


The commercial aerospace industry is coming back to Space City in the form of a launch site, located south of downtown. | Courtesy of Houston Airport System

The decision to build the U.S.’s 10th licensed commercial spaceport at Ellington Airport in Houston was made Tuesday.

“(A couple of years ago), the City of Houston Council passed an item that would allow the city to pursue a spaceport,” said Lauren Laake, city councilman Dave Martin’s chief of staff. “They had to go through a process, and they had to apply through the Federal Aviation Administration to be deemed a spaceport, therefore getting licensing.”

As of now, the Houston Airport System does not know how the license for a launch site will affect the local economy, but Laake and Martin think the impact will be positive.

“The Houston Spaceport will position the city to remain a national leader in the field and capitalize on the emerging commercial spaceflight industry,” said Martin.

Some spaceports, such as the Midland International Airport, offer private, commercial  aerospace companies access to launch sites for their various projects.

According to HAS, they are focusing on “securing partnership opportunities with leading companies operating within the aerospace industry.”


Ellington Airport is currently used by the U.S. military and NASA, as well as other aviators. Astronauts from the Johnson Space Center have long come here, preparing for their various projects. | Brittaney Penney/The Cougar

“Houston will play a lead role in commercial space operations in the 21st century,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker in a statement with HAS. “(It will serve) as an economic generator.”

The Houston Spaceport will offer many activities, including but not limited to the development and construction of aerospace technology, scientific and medical experiments and space tourism.

The Houston Airport System even has plans for travel between cities via space in the future.

But they won’t be doing any resupply missions to the International Space Station anytime soon, such as SpaceX in Cape Canaveral. They also won’t be using the typical upright rockets that many associated with space exploration, Laake said.

Reusable launch vehicles that launch horizontally will be used at the Houston Spaceport. These kinds of crafts will mainly execute suborbital excursions.

Two years have passed, and the spaceport is now a reality. With NASA budget cuts and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center’s loss of its manned-flight priority, many are happy for what they see as a revitalization of Space City’s reputation.

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