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SpaceX to open a new office in the Washington, D.C., area

January 31, 2011 |  1:57 pm

Falcon 9

Hawthorne-based rocket company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said it will open a new office in the Washington area, establishing a location that’s closer to a key customer –- the U.S. government.

The privately held company, better known as SpaceX, makes its rockets in a sprawling facility near the Hawthorne Municipal Airport. The plant once housed the fuselage assembly line for Boeing's 747 jumbo jet.

Although SpaceX currently has a small office in Washington, the new office will be larger.

The company said the office will be located in Chantilly, Va., which is also the home of the National Reconnaissance Office, or the NRO. The covert agency builds and operates the nation's spy satellites and has been blasting plenty of satellites into outer space in recent months.

Bruce Carlson, the director of the NRO, said recently that the agency is on "the most aggressive launch campaign that the National Reconnaissance Office has had in 20 years."

SpaceX could be looking to help the NRO out with that. And it doesn't hurt that the nation's capital is just 25 miles away.

"We are excited to open offices in Chantilly," Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, said in a statement. "It will provide us with valuable access to important customers and an exceptional talent pool as we continue to grow."

Musk, a 39-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur who made a fortune when he sold online payment business PayPal in 2002, started SpaceX with the vision of developing and launching rockets and lifting payloads into space at a fraction of the cost of the current generation of spacecraft.

SpaceX currently employs more than 1,250 people, most of them in California. But the company has rapidly increased its national footprint. It also has locations near major spaceflight centers in Huntsville, Ala., McGregor, Texas, and Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In December, SpaceX became first private company to launch a spacecraft into Earth orbit and have it return intact.


SpaceX teams with EADS to go after European launch contracts

SpaceX aims for next milestone: carrying astronauts

-- W.J. Hennigan

Photo: The SpaceX Falcon 9 test rocket lifts off at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in June. Credit: Matt Stroshane / Getty Images