Elon Musk has announced plans to build a rocket factory in McGregor, Texas, not far from the city of Waco. This will be SpaceX’s second rocket engine factory and will produce the Raptor 2 engines.
These Raptor engines are designed for use on SpaceX’s Starship rockets, which are still under development with test launches taking place at the facility in Boca Chica, Texas. After four Starship prototype explosions in a row, SpaceX finally managed to nail the landing of the SN15 prototype after making upgrades based on data from the tests of SN8, SN9, SN10, SN11. The mishaps occurred during or shortly after landing, though engineers and technicians say that they got enough data from the tests to make improvements.
Once the new rocket factory is complete, the factory in California will focus on the Raptor Vacuum, which is better suited for use in space, and experimental designs for rocket engines. Meanwhile, the McGregor factory will produce as many as 1,000 engines per year, which is considered a lot in the aerospace industry.
The ambitious plan for McGregor is representative of Musk’s overall ambitions for spaceflight, which relies on the success of Starship. This model is meant for heavy-duty travel to the Moon and Mars. Musk said that the factory is needed for his ultimate goal of putting a significantly sized city on Mars by 2050.
“That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by ~2050,” he said.
Elon Musk cited “challenges” in the vicinity the Boca Chica facility as the reason for his decision to place the factory in McGregor. He may have been referring to tensions between SpaceX and some of the residents, the latter of which have accused the company of attempting a “hostile takeover” of the local community to create a “company town” that Musk calls Starbase, improperly closing local public beaches and roads, and harming the local environment with the frequent and sometimes explosive test launches, which can scatter debris a fair distance and do minor damage to nearby buildings with shock waves.
Despite the tensions, Elon Musk rents a $50,000 prefab house in Boca Chica from SpaceX after selling all of his properties and has all of his companies investing heavily in the state. SpaceX is still making progress on a manufacturing facility in Austin that will produce Starlink satellites. Tesla is also working on a Gigafactory near Austin that will produce some of its largest vehicles, such as the Tesla Semi and Cybertruck, and will employ 10,000 people. SpaceX already employs 500 people in the McGregor area to prepare for the new SpaceX factory.
In bids to attract qualified employees for all this activity, Musk has made $30 million in donations for community improvement projects and education in the vicinity of the Boca Chica test facility and called for increased housing in the Austin area.