HAS Spaceport Development – Design-Build

Mission Critical worked with the Joint Venture of Texas Sterling Construction and Banicki Construction (Texas Sterling-Banicki) and Lead Designer Kimley-Horn to win the Houston Airport System’s $24M Spaceport Development Design-Build contract. Throughout this three-stage procurement, we highlighted Texas-Sterling Banicki’s shared experience and working relationship as strengthened by their shared parent company, Sterling Construction Company. The scope of this aviation project includes the construction of 53,000 square feet of laboratory and office space on a 153-acre site, as well as roadways, parking, water, wastewater, electrical power and distribution, and communications facilities.


The City of Houston proposed this aerospace infrastructure project to help establish Texas as a national and international hub for commercial space transportation. The trends in the aerospace industry are shifting toward smaller launches with the rise of smaller satellites, an emerging suborbital space-tourism market, and a national security environment demanding speedy launch capability. In response to these changes in space transportation, this Houston Airport Systems project will construct a site at Ellington Airport (EFD) for commercial space-launch-vehicle operators to conduct horizontal take-off and horizontal landing of smaller reusable launch vehicles (RLVs).

EFD has approximately 2,600 acres of land with three active runways, eight active taxiways, and one active taxi lane. Runway 17R-35L is 9,001 feet (ft) long by 150 ft wide. Runway 17L-35R, the shortest runway, is 4,609 ft long by 75 ft wide. Runway 4-22, the crosswind runway, is 8,001 ft long by 150 ft wide. The crosswind runway is not certified under Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 139 for commercial use.

Mission Critical has worked with Texas Sterling, Banicki, and Design Engineer Kimley-Horne on similar procurements in the past, with a previous award of the $24M Houston Airport System Hardstand project.  

Technical Approach

As members of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), over 40% of Mission Critical’s work is managing multi-stage Design-Build and Progressive Design-Build pursuits. This Houston Spaceport three-stage procurement followed a more traditional progression which included a Request for Qualifications,  a Request for Proposal (including technical approach and price proposal) for shortlisted firms, as well as a 60-minute panel interview. 

This project represents the fourth project pursuit managed by Mission Critical on behalf of Texas Sterling and Banicki, which follows our 2016 winning effort from the $24M Houston Airport System Hardstand Design-Build. Mission Critical has worked with Kimley-Horn across the Western United States on aviation and water/wastewater infrastructure pursuits. Mission Critical, Texas Sterling-Banicki and Kimley-Horn as a collective have pursued three aviation and infrastructure projects in Texas since 2016.

Often, we see project teams with previous pursuit experience begin to reuse or adapt already-written content to meet the needs of the current pursuit. For the Statement of Qualifications phase of this pursuit, Mission Critical strictly avoided this pitfall. First, we reviewed the bridging documents including conceptual design plans, traffic impact analysis studies, as well as utilities and geotechnical reports. We used this body of knowledge to create an initial risk register for the pursuit, then invested staff time and effort in re-interviewing team members to develop targeted resumes along with project and qualifications narratives incorporating these essential scope elements.

Ellington Airport is one of the few airfields built for World War I training purposes still in operation today. The new HAS Spaceport facility will be one of only ten facilities of this type in the United States.

After shortlisting, Mission Critical worked with Kimley-Horn to develop specific narrative approaches for inclusion in the Technical Proposal. This work required close collaboration between our writing and design groups and the Kimley-Horn team to illustrate specific risks, constraints, and approaches to the following elements:

  • Stakeholder Integration: Current tenants at EFD include three military units, NASA, and a Fixed Base Operator. Mission Critical undertook an extensive discovery effort to understand the concerns and preferences of these critical stakeholders;
  • Mitigation of impacts to nearby Section 4(f) wildlife and waterfowl refuges, including the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge and additional NRHP-listed resources within the construction and final operational Region of Influence (ROI); and
  • Design and construction approaches addressing an existing Geologic Fault Zone within the project limits.

As a result of this collaborative effort, the Texas Sterling-Banicki and Kimley-Horn team earned the highest technical proposal score. The intense preparation effort for the project interviews and the team’s overall performance resulted in a substantial win.


Due to the size and scope of this project that included vertical and horizontal construction in a technically challenging site area, Mission Critical advanced work through optimized planning and content development meetings to ensure the document reflected the team’s approach while exceeding compliance and document guidelines.

Mission Critical’s management of this pursuit minimized the overall time that Texas Sterling-Banicki and Kimley-Horn needed to allocate to the Technical Proposal itself. By working as an extension of staff to both the construction and design teams for content development, Mission Critical allowed the project team to focus on developing solid approaches, innovative ideas to mitigate risks, and a highly competitive cost proposal. As a result, the Texas Sterling-Banicki advanced through all three procurement stages to win this prestigious and exciting project.

Key Information

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Great pursuits and winning proposals require amazing ideas, the right people, and the grit to get the job done.

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