SpaceX to build new ground stations in Texas
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — In addition to building a commercial spaceport for orbital launches along Boca Chica Beach in south Texas, SpaceX is also adding a couple of NASA-heritage ground tracking antennas to track the Dragon spacecraft.
A local Texas television station reported that the antennas will be shipped to SpaceX’s ground tracking facility from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida, adding to the company’s increasingly sophisticated facilities for conducting commercial space launches and spacecraft operations in Texas.
The $100 million, 49-acre Boca Chica property, located adjacent to Boca Chica State Park, has been a work in progress since SpaceX first discussed their plans with the Texas state government in 2011. Groundbreaking on the facility began in 2014. With the dirt continuing to be moved, the Brownsville Herald reports that company plans to conduct its first launch in September 2018.
The Texas operation represents yet another piece of Elon Musk’s process of creating a commercial version of NASA’s space operations, including vehicle design and assembly, testing, mission control, launch operations and now ground tracking.
Falcon 9 rockets launching out of Boca Chica would fly commercial satellites only. SpaceX will continue to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida.
Since June of 2010, SpaceX has launched its Falcon 9 rocket some 27 times – all but two of those have been from the Cape. The rocket has only encountered a single failure, the 2015 flight of the CRS-7 Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. The Hawthorne, California-based company has greatly increased its operations since that time.
SpaceX also has a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base located in California. Space Launch Complex 4E (East) has been used twice so far. The NewSpace company is hoping to conduct the first flight of its new “Falcon Heavy” rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A later this year. If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX will have as many as four launch sites spread out across the U.S.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.