via 147th Attack Wing Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)
2nd Lt. Daniel Martinez
National Guard Bureau Space Operations leaders visited Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Texas November 9, 2021, to observe the capabilities for future space missions in Houston, Texas. The visit included the Texas Deputy Adjutant General Air, Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, NGB Space Operations, U.S. Space Force, the 147th Attack Wing commanders, the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit, and commercial space partners.
Col. Edward Black, the Director of Strategy, Plans, Programming, and Requirements for the National Guard Space Operations and Col. Tyler Hague, United States Space Force Test and Evaluation, were shown 147th Attack Wing operations, the Nasa Space Center, and a DIU partner, Intuitive Machines. This visit allowed them to view the extensive capabilities already in place and the ability for future space missions in Houston, Texas and Ellington Field JRB, TX.
“I was asked by the United States Space Force to come see the renaissance of the Space Community in Houston; our trip certainly didn’t disappoint. Intuitive Machines is building the architecture and landing vehicles to communicate and resupply the Moon with a first landing scheduled in early 2022. This will support a larger project by NASA to put Americans back on the moon and potentially Mars in the coming years. It’s an exciting time to be in Houston,” said Col. Black. “Thank you Maj. Gen. Suelzer and Col. Camacho and the entire 147th team for the hospitality and for hosting our visit. I look forward to working closely with the leadership in Texas to explore opportunities with our Nation’s newest service, the United States Space Force.”
NASA and the Johnson Space Center in Houston have been monumental to the progression of space achievements and continue to be a leading role in all things space related. Today, Houston is home to more than 200 aerospace manufacturing and development companies. The estimated workforce of aerospace engineers, scientists, skilled professionals and other workers is 17,000. The space ecosystem that Houston offers is extensive and continues to grow daily. Ellington Field is a unique contributor to the growth and development of space missions by hosting flight operations for NASA.
The 147th Attack Wing is the lead military agency at Ellington Field and shares the airfield with NASA and commercial space partners creating a unique opportunity for future partnerships between the Department of Defense and private space enterprises.
“We continue to work with our Pentagon space partners to explore opportunities in the space mission,” said Col. Andrew Camacho, the 147th Attack Wing Commander. “We see the opportunity for the 147th Attack Wing to become the military gateway to the Houston space ecosystem.”
A vital military connection currently engaged with space leaders in the Houston area is the Department of Defense's Defense Innovation Unit. The goal of the DIU is to help the U.S military make faster use of emerging commercial technology. DIU works across the DOD to identify and understand critical national security challenges that can be solved by these emerging commercial technologies. The DIU consists of civilian, active duty and reserve service members.
The DOD Defense Innovation Unit showcased one of their civilian partners, Intuitive Machines. Intuitive Machines was created to provide autonomous systems for industrial systems, drones, spacecraft and spacesuit modeling and simulation services. Intuitive Machines’ current project is its complete lunar program. This program will unlock the lunar economy to explore the solar system further and gain knowledge for the progress of humanity. As the premier provider of space services and technologies, Intuitive Machines is reestablishing the United States’ dominance on the ultimate high ground, the Moon. Designed by the greatest minds in spaceflight, IM’s lunar program will send the first American spacecraft to the surface of the Moon since the Apollo program and send the first spacecraft ever to reach the lunar south pole.
Ellington Field acts as a nexus between interagency collaboration that supports NASA and military operations along with a variety of general aviation tenants. The future of Ellington Field is the Houston Spaceport, According to Houston Airport Systems, the Houston Spaceport is an FAA-licensed, urban commercial spaceport offering unprecedented access to a thriving aerospace community. In addition to serving as a launch and landing site for suborbital, reusable launch vehicles, Houston Spaceport offers laboratory office space including technology incubator space and large-scale hardware production facilities.
Being collocated on Ellington Field with NASA, the Houston Space Port, and commercial space companies, the 147th Attack Wing is in a unique position to directly support the DOD, NGB, and NASA. “With our diverse and professional citizen Airmen currently working in the space ecosystem, the 147th is ready and willing to accept future missions, including space operations,” said Camacho.