April 11, 2012
SpaceX Considering Building ‘Commercial Cape Canaveral’ In Texas
One of the U.S. companies looking to establish a private-sector space transportation system is considering building a personal airfield in southern Texas, according to an FAA document posted on Tuesday.
According to Adi Robertson of The Verge, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is said to be eyeing locations in Cameron County, located at the southern tip of the state, for the future home of a facility which could support as many as a dozen commercial launches each year. The company currently uses a government-run site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and there is no indication as to when construction of the proposed base would begin.
The FAA filing -- which was reportedly first discovered by HobbySpace.com -- reveals that SpaceX wants to conduct an Environmental Impact Study for the construction of the spaceport, and that vehicles to be launched include the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy (but no more than twice per year), and various smaller, reusable suborbital launch vehicles, ArsTechnica's Dave Klingler said.
The company's founder, Elon Musk, was said to have been considering conducting Falcon Heavy launches at Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 39A, according to Klinger, but had also spoken in the past about creating a "commercial Cape Canaveral."
Laura B. Martinez of the Brownsville Herald said that the Cameron County location is in Brownsville, near the "eastern end of State Highway 4, about three miles north of the Mexican border on the Gulf Coast, which is about five miles south of Port Isabel and South Padre Island," with launches travelling east over the Gulf of Mexico.
Brownsville is one of three locations being considered for the SpaceX facility, with Florida and Puerto Rico being the others, according to Martinez. Both city and county officials had reportedly been working with Musk's company for more than a year -- negotiations which had been secret until the publication of the FAA documents on Monday, the Brownsville Herald wrote in an April 9 article.
"The choice of Texas could potentially cement the state as a commercial space hub and eventually bring in tens of thousands of jobs," Klinger wrote on Tuesday. "The site is also much closer to the SpaceX integration and testing facility in McGregor, Texas than Cape Canaveral. The mention of suborbital launch vehicles in the EIS filing suggests that SpaceX research efforts to land and reuse a first stage could be hosted from a Texas launch site. By launching east from Texas, it may be possible for the first stage to make a powered landing in Florida without having to perform a retrograde maneuver, going some way towards realizing Musk's dream of making the Falcon 9 reusable."
"SpaceX could also potentially reduce costs and delays by launching from Texas. There's plenty of red tape associated with Kennedy Space Center, and the center is often reserved for large blocks of time by other launchers. If SpaceX had its own pad, it wouldn't have to share. Regardless of whether Congress delays American space access to ISS for another year, a private Texas spaceport seems attractive for the company, which has the majority of the commercial launch market sewn up over the next few years," he added.
Musk, who is also the founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, created SpaceX in 2002. In 2006, the company was awarded Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) funding from NASA in order to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). In December 2010, they became the first privately-funded firm to successfully, launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft. SpaceX is also reportedly working on an unmanned mission to Mars, tentatively scheduled for 2018.