SpaceX breaks ground for Spaceport in Texas, Musk aims for first launch in 2016
BOCA CHICA, TX — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) broke ground on Monday Sept. 22 at the site near Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County, Texas, where it plans to build a commercial rocket launch site. As SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk lifted a shovel of dirt, his ultimate goal of developing technology to enable trips to Mars took a step forward. “This feels great. It feels like the future,” Musk said. Governor Rick Perry and other dignitaries were also at this event. SpaceX has long viewed the limitations placed on its ability to launch by the United States Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration as stifling the company’s ability to launch at the rate it would prefer.
“This announcement represents a huge step forward for our state and continues our nation’s proud legacy of scientific advancement,” Perry said. “It builds upon our pioneer heritage, our tradition of thinking bigger, dreaming bolder, and daring to do the impossible. SpaceX is the latest in a long line of forward-thinking companies that have made Texas home, and I couldn’t be prouder to help break ground on this revolutionary new facility.”
The Boca Chica Site is described as being the world’s first commercial orbital space port.
“We appreciate the leadership of Governor Rick Perry and numerous other federal, state and local leaders who have helped make it possible for SpaceX to build the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions. With today’s groundbreaking at Boca Chica Beach, we will begin an investment in South Texas that will create hundreds of jobs and over time contribute hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy,” Musk said.
Musk added that he wants the company’s new commercial orbital rocket launch site to be operational as soon as possible. That means the paved launch site near the end of U.S. Highway 4 at Boca Chica should be complete in about nine months, with the first rocket launch potentially taking place as early as late 2016.
The rocket launch site will be located about three miles north of the Mexican border and about five miles south of Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
SpaceX intends to build a vertical launch area and control center to support 12 commercial launches per year. The vehicles launched include the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and smaller reusable, suborbital launch vehicles.
Musk revealed that he expects “thousands of launches.” Furthermore, “when we start doing commercial crew activities, I would expect us to launch a crew from here,” he said.
“What’s important is to have a truly commercial launch site, just like we have commercial airports. Every sort of structure has its primary focus and I think it’s important that the world have a truly commercial orbital spaceport,” Musk added.
Rep. Filemon Vela, who introduced Musk and Perry, predicted that the “benefit from an educational and economic standpoint that SpaceX will bring to this region is something that many of us never dreamed of.”
“Over the course of the last 13, almost 14 years, we have looked for major projects of which we can make a really big impact on South Texas,” Perry said. “I noticed the sign behind me that says ‘pavement ends in 1,000 feet.’ But the future of South Texas takes off right behind me. And that’s what today’s really all about.”
Perry also announced an investment of $9 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and The University of Texas System to establish STARGATE to develop and support commercial phased-array technology for satellite and space vehicle communication. The city of Brownsville, through the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation will contribute $500,000 to the project.
“The city of Brownsville is proud to partner with the university on the STARGATE project,” Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said in a statement. “STARGATE, in collaboration with SpaceX, will make a profound difference in the career opportunities for our students; and going forward, it will positively impact the lives of future generations,” Martinez added.
Monday’s groundbreaking is the result of years of cooperation between Texas and SpaceX. The idea for a commercial spaceport in Texas was first discussed on a TexasOne trip to California in 2011. Since then, Gov. Perry has met with Elon Musk and written letters to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help secure clearance for the facility. Also, several members of the Governor’s staff have appeared in front of the FAA to help bring the facility to Texas.
“Today’s groundbreaking is historic. It signifies the construction of a new industry and a new future for the Rio Grande Valley. SpaceX’s launch site will soon become an invaluable economic driver for South Texas. With this site comes tens of millions of dollars in capital investment in our community annually, and hundreds of well-paying jobs over the next decade. We’ve set up South Texas as a future leader in developing bleeding-edge space technology which will influence future commerce for the whole planet,” said Teas State Senator Eddie Luico, Jr. (District 27). “I hope the new launch site will propel a dramatic culture change in our region of the state, encouraging more of our children to pursue careers in engineering and science. Future generation of South Texas residents will look to this site and know that not even the sky is the limit for where their dreams may take them.”
This article originally appeared on SpaceFlight Insider partner website, Astro Watch and can be viewed here: Spaceport Texas
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.