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Texas Best Bet for New SpaceX Launch Site?

Satellite Technology

Satellite Technology Feature Article

June 26, 2012

Texas Best Bet for New SpaceX Launch Site?

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Texas seems to have the edge over Florida and Puerto Rico as the next place where upstart SpaceX (News - Alert) conducts launches, according to reports over the past two weeks. But Florida advocates aren't going to concede quietly.

Last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported a meeting between SpaceX founder, Elon Musk and Texas Governor Rick Perry. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will mark the official handover of the first commercially delivered cargo from the International Space Station (ISS) to NASA as a part of the successful Dragon 2/3 COTS demonstration flight.

SpaceX has its eye on a launch pad on the southernmost tip of Texas, in the city of Brownsville. Texas politicos are working on an incentive package to get the company to sign on the dotted line, while the Federal Aviation Administration has already held a public hearing discussing the possibility.

"Please be assured that as you seek to expand the capabilities of SpaceX to launch spacecraft, whether unmanned or manned, the State of Texas stands ready to support you and the work of your talented employees who are blazing a new trail into space," Perry wrote to Musk in an early June letter.

At stake are hundreds of highly skilled -- and high wage -- jobs at SpaceX and other aerospace companies that would spring up to support commercial satellite launch operations. With the Space Shuttle program closed out, there's heavy competition for more business.

SpaceX says it needs an additional launch site for its growing commercial launch. It currently has one launch pad licensed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base for NASA ISS cargo flights and plans to conduct manned crew flights for NASA and others in Florida as well.  

Florida officials would like to convince SpaceX to keep everything in the sunshine state, noting it has already put in more than $8.5 million to help the company setup its facilities and there would be economies of scale in keeping SpaceX operations centralized. 

But the Cape facility has multiple issues for commercial operations, including a tightly regimented launch schedule run by the Air Force coordinating launches for it and NASA.   The cost of support overhead, such as tracking facilities, has been mentioned as well.

Puerto Rico would like to get into the race, offering a location closer to the equator, but it has to be considered the dark horse because it doesn't have localized talent pool that Florida and Texas are able to tap into.  

Also favoring Texas, SpaceX already has one facility in McGregor for engine testing. A launch pad in the state would mean shorter transport time and costs for gear and people. 

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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