SpaceX To Grow Operations with Northern Va. Office

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Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) said Jan. 31 it plans to expand operations in the Washington region with new offices in Chantilly, Va., near key government and commercial clients.

“We are excited to open offices in Chantilly,” SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a Jan. 31 statement. “It will provide us with valuable access to important customers and an exceptional talent pool as we continue to grow.”

Last year SpaceX signed a $492 million deal with McLean, Va.-based Iridium Communications to launch an undisclosed number of telecommunications satellites to low Earth orbit between 2015 and 2017 atop the Hawthorne, Calif.-based startup’s Falcon 9 medium-lift rocket.

Chantilly also is home to the U.S. Defense Department’s National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and operates the nation’s spy satellites.

SpaceX, which currently employs more than 1,250 workers in a half-dozen states and the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, has nearly doubled in size annually since it was founded in 2002, according to the news release. Musk said the Chantilly office is expected to see similarly rapid growth as SpaceX’s government and commercial client base expands.

SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said the Northern Virginia location will have fewer than 10 employees drawn from a pool of around 20 at the company’s offices in downtown Washington, “but our lease has the option to expand as we grow,” she said in a Jan. 31 e-mail.

Chantilly is located in the U.S. congressional district of Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, the incoming chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that oversees NASA spending, who is an outspoken critic of NASA’s new plan to rely on privately developed rockets and spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the international space station. In an interview last year, Wolf singled out SpaceX for falling behind in development of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule the company is building under a $278 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA.

SpaceX’s COTS competitor, Orbital Sciences Corp., is headquartered in Dulles, Va., several kilometers north of Chantilly.