A new use for Ellington Field?

The Houston Chronicle reports that a number of US Congressmen (yep, they’re all men) from the Houston area have begun lobbying the Pentagon to move the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Germany to Houston. One may think it is strange to have a military headquarters so far away from the actual place of operations, but it is definitely not unprecedented. The Command over Latin America is in Miami and, even more to the point, the Command of the Middle East is in Tampa.

This idea has been supported locally be Rep. Gene Green (D-Harris County) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Montgomery County), as well as Senator John Cornyn. Normally, this would not be all that much leverage against the Washington establishment. However, just recently, the equation has drastically changed. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and he recently announced his intention to retire. The Vice-Chairman of the committee is Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), meaning a Texan would likely take the helm of the committee if Republicans retain control of the House (which, you know, they will).

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In re Spaceports

The Galveston Daily News reports that the Houston Airport System is unveiling its new plan for turning Ellington Field into Ellington Spaceport. The new, converted facility would handle a lot of the intermediate microsatelite traffic to and from the International Space Station, with the potential for future expansion for space tourism.

Some may remember, as the Houston Chronicle reminds us, that the Houston City Council voted to allocate nearly 3/4 million dollars for consulting fees and studies to determine the feasibility of the Spaceport. The vote, no doubt, was an important first step the City took to make this once far-fetched dream a reality.

The discussion on the Spaceport, which has made national news (A.P. article), will be held at the Johnson Space Center this evening and will be hosted by Mario Diaz, the director of the Houston Airport System. As the Daily News explains, this is happening in conjunction with some other issues:

The subject should dominate discussion at the annual conference for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which is made up of more than 40 businesses and organizations in the commercial space industry.

Its members include Boeing, SpaceX and the Sierra Nevada Corp., which each have partnered with NASA to develop spacecraft to ferry crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

Proponents of an Ellington Airport said the field is uniquely located to launch craft and microsatellites for commercial activities such as space tourism and experimentation. The spaceport also will be used for vehicle construction and design.

Launches from the port would feature reusable vehicles that take off horizontally, rather than vertically.

[…]

It would cost somewhere between $48 million to $122 million to equip Ellington to launch space vehicles, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Houston Airport System.

This is, when all is said and done, a good investment for the City. Ellington Field, like the two major airports and the Johnson Space Center, is still in city limits.