Google has agreed to lease a NASA airfield for 60 years in a deal worth $1.16 billion. It plans to use Moffett Federal Airfield for its space research subsidiary Planetary Ventures LLC.
The airfield, in Mountain View in the San Francisco bay area, was originally a naval air base; NASA took control in 1994 when the government decided it was no longer needed for military uses with the Cold War over.
Moffet Field is best known for Hanger One, originally built to house airships. It covers a floor space of eight acres and its highest point is 60 meters high. In 2003 NASA discovered that a combination of lead paint, asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls used in the hanger’s construction meant it was now leaking toxic waste into adjacent wetlands.
That led to years of bureaucratic wranglings about what to do with the hanger and who should pay. At one point chiefs at Google — which is based only a couple of miles away — reportedly offered to cover the full cost of renovation in return for being able to use it to store eight private jets. Eventually NASA settled on simply removing the panels and leaving the structure as a skeleton.
As part of the new deal, Planetary Ventures will spend $200 million to complete refurbishments on Hanger One. It will also revamp two other hangers and create an educational facility for the public.
The initial lease is for $1.16 billion in rent over 60 years (almost $20 million a year). NASA says it previously spent around $6.3 million in operation costs.
Google hasn’t detailed its full plans, but the press release announcing the deal noted Planetary Ventures will use all three hangers for “research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies.” There’s no word yet on whether the deal allows Google chiefs to park their jets in Hanger One.