Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Google Takes Control of Hangar One

          by Brian Orlotti

Planetary Ventures LLC (a subsidiary of Google) has announced that it will lease a historic facility at NASA Ames Research Centre near Mountain View, California for $1.16Bln USD ($1.31Bln CDN) over the next 60 years.

Moffat Field Hangar One. As outlined in the June 19th, 2010 NASA update on "The Latest News on Hangar One," the facility "is a recognizable landmark in the San Francisco Bay area and a part of its early aviation history. The Navy built Hangar One at Moffett Field in 1932 for the USS Macon and to serve as the West Coast base for the U.S. lighter-than-air aviation program. The Navy transferred the hangar to NASA in 1994 after Moffett Field was decommissioned." The facility is currently closed to the public because of the high levels of PCBs present in the Hangar One building components, Photo c/o NASA.

As outlined in the November 10th, 2014 press release,"NASA Signs Lease with Planetary Ventures LLC for Use of Moffett Airfield and Restoration of Hangar One," the firm will lease Moffett Federal Airfield (MFA), currently managed by NASA Ames, and restore the facility's historic Hangar One, a large building originally built in the 1930's for US Navy airships that has become a Silicon Valley landmark.

Planetary Ventures plans to invest over $200Mln USD ($225.4Mln CDN) in the 1,000-acre (405 hectares) property, which also includes Hangar Two and Hangar Three, two runways, a flight operations building, and a private golf course. The deal is expected to save NASA $6.3 million USD per year in operations costs in addition to the income from the lease.

Planetary Ventures development plans include refurbishing all three hangars and re-purposing them as research facilities to develop new technologies in space exploration, aviation, robotics and other emerging fields. Planetary Ventures will also build a public outreach facility to educate visitors on the site's historical significance.

Moffett Federal Field in Sunnyvale, California with Hangar One on the left and Hangars Two and Three on the right. Photo c/o Wikipedia.

According to the February 10th, 2014 Silicon Valley Business Journal article, "Google's Moffett Field plans include robots, space tech, aviation," Google’s choice of Moffett Federal Airfield makes great sense from a strategic perspective. To the west of MFA is Mountain View, California's North Bayshore area, home to many Google buildings comprising millions of square feet. To the east is Sunnyvale, California's Moffett Park office sub-market, an office campus where Google has been growing rapidly. Google already leases a 42-acre site at the north end of NASA Ames Research Centre where it is building an ultra-green office campus.

With significant Google presence already in the area (with Google facilities, in effect, encircling NASA Ames), the acquisition of MFA will allow the company to consolidate its control over the region.

Brian Orlotti.
Google's cutting-edge research into cargo delivery drones, internet-via-drone and internet-via-balloon will take the company skyward into the future. The Moffett Federal Airfield will be that future's literal launch point.

Brian Orlotti is a Toronto-based IT professional and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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