Lone Star Rising

Image of the Falcon 9 pictured and hosted on Bloomberg Businessweek’s site.

According to this Bloomberg Businessweek article, it looks like SpaceX just bought itself a spaceport.  Their planned launch facility looks to cover nearly 50 acres of Texas land on the coast.  The specific area might be near Boca Chica Beach.

Why would SpaceX want a launch complex in this area?  First of all, if they are launching rockets, most would likely be flying east over nothing but water.  They don’t have to worry about population centers on land (except for maybe cruise ships), just in case something bad does happen to one of their rockets during flight.  This falls in line with accepted thoughts about where and why the US government have launch facilities at Cape Kennedy, Vandenberg AFB, and Wallops Island.  All are by bodies of water over which rockets from those complexes fly over, with no population centers to worry about.

It also looks like SpaceX is receiving some heavy subsidies, in the form of “incentives” from Texas and Brownsville, Texas (the closest local government to Boca Chica Beach).  $20 million or so.  Which isn’t chicken feed when SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets launch for an advertised $60 million, give or take.

There also may be another incentive, which is not having to deal with pesky government interlopers.  So long as SpaceX is launching from NASA or DoD run launch pads, SpaceX is compelled to comply with onerous rules and processes for launching their rockets.  Such processes require a lot of extra time and money.  This newer Texas launch complex might allow them to showcase their own methods for getting things done.

Of course, they might learn that there are good reasons for certain NASA and DoD processes.  But for now, it will be interesting to watch what they do, and how they do it.  Will they revolutionize the rocket industry?  That remains to be seen.  But everything they’ve done so far has the current rocket incumbents reacting–which is a nice place to be for SpaceX.


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