Mojave Spaceport Accepts $1.36 Million From FAA for Taxiway B Extension

Taxiway B at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Google Maps)

The Mojave Air and Space Port’s Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to accept a grant totaling $1,364,086 from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a 600-foot extension of Taxiway B. The grant is larger than the $1.05 million announced by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Aug. 3.

The board also approved an application to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for a matching grant of up to 5 percent of the project’s total. The maximum amount received would be $68,024; however, CalTrans might cap the award at $25,000.

If the full state matching grant is awarded, total outside funding for the project would amount to $1,432,110.

The board also awarded three contracts for the taxiway extension:

  • Granite Construction: $1,099,135
  • RB Development (lighting): $53,263
  • Aviation Striping (painting): $19,085.

Mojave Airport CEO Karina Drees said the grants would pay for a 600-foot extension of the taxiway. The extension would allow for the construction of an additional hangar to the west of Virgin Galactic’s FAITH facility.

The airport hoped to extend the taxiway even further with a turnaround  at the end for aircraft. However, the FAA grant is insufficient to allow for the completion of the taxiway.

Obama Signs Law to Prevent Encroachments on Nation’s Spaceports

President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure that will help the nation’s growing legion of spaceports fight the encroachment of obstacles such as transmission lines that could endanger suborbital spacecraft.

The measure, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was inspired by a problem experienced by the Mojave Air and Space Port, which is in the Congressman’s district. A utility company built extra tall transmission towers near the airport, sparking safety concerns among officials there.


Stu Witt Retires From Mojave Spaceport in Style

Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

They came to Mojave from near and far — from the dusty desert communities of Lancaster, Boron and Ridgecrest to the snow swept tundra of Sweden — to send Stu Witt off in style. One of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. played hooky from Congress to wish his friend a happy retirement.

Hundreds of people gathered on Jan. 8 to mark the end of Witt’s nearly 14-year term as CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. The event featured a reception and a long parade of friends and colleagues singing his praises.


New Mojave Spaceport CEO to Address AV Business Outlook Conference

Katrina Drees
Katrina Drees

LANCASTER, Calif. (AVBOT PR) — Karina Drees, who will assume duties as CEO and General Manager of Mojave Air & Space Port in January, will be among regional business and industry leaders to speak at the Antelope Valley Business Outlook Conference on Feb. 26, 2016.

Drees, Deputy General Manager of MASP, has been named to succeed CEO Stu Witt upon his retirement at year end.

Drees, 39, joined the Mojave Air & Spaceport management in July 2012 as director of business development, and was advanced to the post of deputy general manager a year later. She worked with the Mojave Air and Spaceport in 2007 in developing an access-to-space plan for commercial operations of the new space transportation vehicles under development in Mojave.

Prior to joining the Mojave Air and Space Port, Drees had more than 12 years’ experience in strategy and business development, occupying management positions for growing technology companies.


Karina Drees Named New CEO of Mojave Spaceport

Katrina Drees
Katrina Drees

MOJAVE, Calif. — Mojave Air and Space Port Deputy General Manager Karina Drees has been named to replace outgoing General Manager/CEO Stu Witt, who is retiring on Jan 15.

The spaceport’s Board of Directors approved the appointment of Drees in a closed session meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Drees, 39, joined the spaceport as director of business development on July 1, 20o12. She was appointed deputy general manager in August 2013.

Director Allen Peterson said the board concluded Drees was the best candidate to take over the spaceport and civilian flight test center in California’s High Desert after a very systematic search process.

Prior to coming to Mojave, Drees had worked for more than 12 years in strategy and business development in growing technology companies rranging from startups to large public corporations. Her most recent position had been as a member of the strategy and positioning team for SRA International, a large defense contractor in Fairfax, Virg.

Drees lives in Mojave with her husband Todd and their one-year old son, Max.
Witt will be ending a nearly 14 year stint as head of the airport. He is widely viewed as having been a strong leader who built the former Marine Corps base into one of the world’s leading civilian test centers. In addition to the National Test Pilot School, Mojave boast leading edge space companies, including Virgin Galactic, Stratolaunch, Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace.

Mojave Spaceport Moves Forward With Fitness Center Project

Interior of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Interior of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A fitness center could open inside the Mojave Air and Space Port’s Stuart O. Witt Event Center in November if all goes well, officials said on Tuesday.

The spaceport’s Board of Directors approved spending up to $60,000 on improvements required to prepare an unfinished portion of the building to host a fitness center. The improvements will include heating, air conditioning, electrical work, lighting, flooring and ceiling insulation.

Mojave CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said a fitness company has signed a letter of intent to lease the space once it is set for occupancy.

Deputy General Manager Karina Drees said the fitness center would be open to employees at the airport as well as members of the general public. The company is taking some risk coming up to Mojave, so it wants as many members as possible.

The unnamed company is looking to sign a five-year lease to rent the space.

The event center and the fitness club are part of the airport’s tenant retention program. The event center has been used to host special events and company all-hands meetings.

New Mojave Spaceport Promotional Video is a Big Hit With the Kids

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

When Karina Drees screened the Mojave Air and Space Port’s new promotional video at the recent SpaceVision 2012 conference in Buffalo, a number of viewers noted something unusual: the almost total lack of animation.

The people in Mojave are building real hardware. And flying vehicles.! Not in like five years’ time.

That was a good thing to hear from the college students who attended the conference, which was sponsored by the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. Drees, who is the Mojave spaceport’s director of business development, had gone to the conference to promote the spaceport and to recruit future interns.  And she found them very excited to learn about all the interesting things going on in Mojave.

The new video, which was produced by Robin Snelson, also has received kudos from the Mojave airport staff and its board of directors. General Manager Stu Witt noted that the video showed the faces of the young generation of aerospace workers working in Mojave.

Mojave Spaceport Looks for NASA, Student Interns

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

NASA Dryden is looking to place one of its employees at the Mojave Air and Space Port for six to 12 months to learn how the private sector space community operates.

The placement would be made under a NASA program that details promising employees at companies and other organizations to give them broader business and management expertise, said Mojave spaceport CEO Stu Witt. The space agency would cover the salary of the employee while he or she is working on assignment in Mojave.

“We interpret that as an enormous vote of confidence that we’re doing something right,” Witt told the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) Board of Directors on Tuesday.

Witt said he has had several discussions about the placement with officials at the NASA field center, which located at nearby Edwards Air Force Base. He said he hoped to have an agreement to present to the EKAD board at its next meeting.

In a related development, the Mojave spaceport is looking to recruit some summer student interns. Karina Drees, the spaceport’s director of business development, will be attending the SpaceVision 2012 conference in Buffalo this week. The three-day event is being sponsored by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).

The spaceport is spending $2,000 as a sponsor of the conference. Drees told the EKAD board that the sponsorship will give her access to students attending the event.