By Marjorie Censer
Monday, January 31, 2011; 3
Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, the commercial space company started by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has signed a lease to open a new office in Chantilly.
Founded in 2002, the company, which develops rockets and spacecraft used by NASA and by commercial firms, soon established a small Washington office with two employees, said Tim Hughes, vice president and chief counsel.
That office now has close to 20 employees and focuses on a mix of government affairs work, including insurance, export controls, regulations and securities.
The new Chantilly office, which is on Newbrook Drive in the Westfield area, is intended to allow SpaceX to draw more employees from what he described as a talented pool.
"Most importantly, there are a host of commercial high-tech and government customers in that area that proximity is going to be helpful with," Hughes said.
The lease was signed this month and the office is now under construction. Hughes said a small team of five to seven employees will move in when the space is ready, likely at the end of March, but that the office will be able to accommodate many more.
Already, the space business has a foothold in Northern Virginia. Dulles-based Orbital Sciences builds small- and medium-size rockets and satellites, and inherited a NASA Earth observation satellite program when it purchased a General Dynamics-owned spacecraft development and manufacturing facility last year.
Based in Hawthorne, Calif., SpaceX has been garnering plenty of attention as the Obama administration seeks a larger role for commercial space companies in NASA's work. In particular, SpaceX is working to provide rockets that can carry supplies and equipment to the international space station.
The business also teams with a range of commercial businesses; Hughes said Iridium Communications is its largest commercial customer.
SpaceX, which is focused on reducing the cost of accessing space, has "moved from a start-up mentality to genuine legitimacy," said Hughes.
Musk is best known for founding the online payment business PayPal and is also a major player in developing the Tesla electric car.