NASA Lifts Off With New Tenant for Houston R&D Campus

American Center for Manufacturing & Innovation will develop the project near the Johnson Space Center.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has completed a leasing and development agreement with American Center for Manufacturing & Innovation at Exploration Park, a planned 240-acre manufacturing, research and development campus located adjacent to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

ACMI and its industrial development subsidiary, ACMI Properties, are set to develop the Space Systems Campus, which will include commercial and aerospace-oriented industrial and manufacturing space as well as an applied research facility devoted to space, defense and civilian-focused robotics, automation and materials science.

ACMI is set to build the campus on a 207-acre parcel of underdeveloped land located around Saturn Lane, which lies roughly half a mile northwest of the Johnson Space Center’s controlled access area. ACMI will lease the land for a minimum of 20 years, and will be able to extend its stay by two 20-year terms.

ACMI’s new assignment marks the second lease at the campus, following last month’s agreement with Texas A&M University to build a $200 million, 30-acre spaceflight R&D facility designed to simulate the exploration of the surfaces of Earth’s Moon and Mars. That agreement takes place amid NASA’s ongoing Artemis program, where crewed flybys and landings on the moon are set to take place in 2025 and 2026, respectively. Artemis’ long-term goals include research about a possible mission to Mars in the 2030s.

The firm’s other projects include facilities devoted to munitions production and battery research and development.

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A&M’s lease agreement is nearly identical to that of ACMI. According to an article from the Community Impact, NASA intends for the park to serve as a nexus for government, academic and private sector institutions related to aerospace research and development, to further advance the industry around the Houston Spaceport.

Houston, we have a solution

In operating the Space Systems Campus, ACMI plans to partner with universities including Rice and Johns Hopkins, private corporations and the U.S. Department of Defense. ACMI’s broader goals at the campus include assisting with the manufacturing and repair of aerospace hardware, alongside collaboration with the above universities’ robotics, artificial intelligence and space-oriented materials science and professional training programs. Within the rentable space that it builds, the company also anticipates leasing to commercial space companies.

Located adjacent to the Johnson Space Center, the park will sit within half a mile of the Space Center Houston science museum, and within 5 miles of the Houston Spaceport. An onramp to the Interstate 45 sits 2.5 miles to the southwest, feeding directly into downtown.

An industrial rocket

Despite a slight development and absorption slowdown, the world’s energy capital boasts strong supply, demand and investment volumes. A February CommerciaEdge report found that Houston’s pipeline of 9.55 million square feet is the eighth-largest in the nation, while the market saw $64 million in sales in January. According to Cushman & Wakefield, much of the new development is devoted to the manufacturing, utilities and manufacturing sectors.

Recent industrial headlines from H-town are on the logistics front. Last week, 84 Lumber signed a full-building lease at the Cypress Distribution Center, a 142,100-square-foot facility located in West Houston. One day prior, a joint venture between Lovett Industrial and PCCP broke ground on the Stafford Logistics Park, a two-building campus totaling 785,000 square feet.

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