NASA signed an agreement with a second partner for its new 240-acre Exploration Park on Feb. 29, which marks another step toward building out the area officials hope could be a hub of researching and testing for space exploration.

The full story

The American Center for Manufacturing and Innovation, or ACMI, will help build out commercial and defense facilities aimed at space exploration, manufacturing and advancing similar technology at the unused land just outside the fence of Johnson Space Center, according to the news release.

The ACMI is a firm that specializes in manufacturing, property management, capital investment, and strengthening both supply chains and national security, according to the business’s website.

The company is calling the development the Space Systems Campus, according to the release. The goal is for the site to be an “applied research facility” that partners several different kinds of agencies, from academia to the government.

How we got here

The announcement comes two weeks after NASA signed a lease agreement with Texas A&M to build out its $200 million space institute. The institute will take up about 30 acres and host facilities that replicate the Mars and lunar surfaces, which will be the first of its kind in the U.S.

That lease with Texas A&M was also the first agreement tied to Exploration Park at the Johnson Space Center. At a press conference on Feb. 15, Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche said the center was continuing to look for other partners to fill out the rest of the space.

Wyche, as well as other officials, have said they see Exploration Park as being a hub for government, academic and private facilities aimed at testing, researching and building to help advance the aerospace industry.

This includes continuing to grow the space economy commercially and creating infrastructure to help develop “multiuse space hardware,” according to the release.

NASA announced proposals in June for use of the undeveloped area, according to the release. The newest agreement with the ACMI calls for the lease to last 20 years, with two 20-year extension options.

What they’re saying

Wyche said in the release the agreement will benefit not just efforts to travel to the moon and Mars but “all of humanity.”

“For more than 60 years, NASA Johnson [Space Center] has been the hub of human space exploration,” Wyche said in the release. “This Space Systems Campus will be a significant component within our objectives for a robust and durable space economy.”

In a Feb. 29 press release from the ACMI, officials said they will look to develop facilities that meet needs of the aerospace industry as well as the Department of Defense. As part of that, they will focus on national priorities, regional impact, academic collaboration, innovation and a “holistic approach.”

“Our aim is to support NASA Johnson’s [Space Center] human spaceflight missions for the next 40 years and beyond,” said Simon Shewmaker, head of development for ACMI properties, in the release.