SpaceX Will Build Prototype Mars Rockets In Texas, Not California

Last week, the Times reported that Elon Musk’s SpaceX was canceling plans to build its biggest rockets at the Port of Los Angeles, and shifting …

From Texas Standard:

It’s not often that the Los Angeles times covers news with a Texas slant, but this time, it was somewhat unavoidable.

Last week, the Times reported that Elon Musk’s SpaceX was canceling plans to build its biggest rockets at the Port of Los Angeles, and shifting production to South Texas. The story got lots of play in Southern California where it was considered something of a blow to the region’s dream of becoming the epicenter of the next wave of space exploration. And it was seen as a victory for Texas – one of California’s economic rivals.

SpaceX already has a launch facility in Boca Chica, near Brownsville, and Steve Clark, a staff writer at the Brownsville Herald says the facility was initially expected to host 12 launches a year once completed. When Musk attended the site’s groundbreaking in 2014, he hinted that Boca Chica could have an even higher-profile role in SpaceX plans.

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“He did say something about the possibility that the first person to depart Earth for Mars could actually leave from Boca Chica,” Clark says.

The Starship Hopper project – the one moved from Los Angeles to Texas – is the first prototype of SpaceX’s Mars initiative. The prototype vehicle will be built at Boca Chica. But development of the overall Starship Mars project remains in California.

Clark says the economic impact of Starship Hopper on South Texas is unclear, but that traffic to the Boca Chica site has increased. He says tourists are posing with the rocket prototype.

Texas likely got the nod to build these rockets because it would have been logistically more complicated to build them in California and then transport them to the Texas launchpad.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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EDITORIAL: SpaceX plans create many opportunities

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s announcement last week that the company would build as well as launch rockets in the Rio Grande Valley opens up new …
A view of SpaceX prototype Starship hopper Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, at Boca Chica Beach as SpaceX crew complete the external construction of the rocket. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s announcement last week that the company would build as well as launch rockets in the Rio Grande Valley opens up new opportunities for the region. With a little luck and a lot of planning and work, the Valley might be able to use this development to establish itself as a major aerospace center.

Through Twitter and a news release issued Wednesday, Musk announced that the manufacture of SpaceX’s Starship rocket is being moved from the Port of Los Angeles to South Texas. The announcement follows the recent successful assembly of a Starship prototype at the company’s launch facility at Boca Chica Beach.

Original plans were to develop and build the rockets in California, then launch them here. But the latest announcement states that the rocket’s size “makes them very difficult to transport.”

This development obviously creates new opportunities for the Valley. An assembly plant would be welcome in a region where unemployment exceeds the state and national average. It also would bring the area more skilled jobs, which are in short supply here.

Musk already has reached out to local educational institutions, including area high schools, about creating programs that will give students the kinds of skills that could help them secure jobs with SpaceX. An assembly plant would further expand such job opportunities.

Such opportunities already are growing; SpaceX originally suggested that the Boca Chica site might be a secondary facility, specializing in unmanned launches to deploy satellites or send supplies to the International Space Station. In recent years, however, announced plans have grown to include the launch of the company’s largest rockets, raising hopes that eventually, the Rio Grande Valley might provide a springboard for manned missions to Mars, one of Musk’s long-term goals.

And SpaceX isn’t the only game in town. United Launch Alliance, which builds the Atlas and Delta lines of rockets, already has an assembly plant in Harlingen.

But assembly is only one of the space-related career tracks that our schools and colleges can feed. Experts are needed to design both the rockets and their missions; intricate calculations are needed to plan successful missions, with launch timing and trajectories taking into account the Earth’s position relative to a rocket’s destination. Research determines many missions, telling the space teams where to send the rockets and why, and observation and tracking are constant throughout any mission.

Such high-tech work could be folded into the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s already strong engineering school.

UTRGV has one of the top gravitational wave astronomy programs in the country if not the world; the local program has been among the first in the world to detect colliding stars, and in 2015 it contributed research to the global Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory that helped detect gravitational waves from merging black holes — research for which it won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Successful academic programs, coupled with an expanding aerospace industry, can help attract more space-related companies. If our local institutions are ready to partner with those companies and supply them with qualified workers, there’s no telling how high our opportunities could go.

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‘Streamlining’ caused Mars rocket move to RGV

SpaceX told Los Angeles city officials that it moved development of the Starship Hopper test space vehicle from the Port of Angeles to the company’s …
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Miguel Roberts

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A motorcyclist rides off in his Harley Davidson Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

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Miguel Roberts

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A closer view of the nose cone of SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to launch a rocket to Mars by 2024. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

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Miguel Roberts

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A view of SpaceX prototype Starship hopper Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, at Boca Chica Beach as SpaceX crew complete the external construction of the rocket. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

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Miguel Roberts

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A motorcyclist and a woman stand next to their Harley Davidson Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

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Miguel Roberts

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A view of SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 from Texas Highway 4. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

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Miguel Roberts

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A view of the topography at Boca Chica Beach that surrounds SpaceX prototype Starship hopper Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

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Miguel Roberts

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A motorist drives along Texas Highway 4 where SpaceX prototype Starship hopper is being built at Boca Chica Beach. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 5:30 pm

‘Streamlining’ caused Mars rocket move to RGVBY STEVE CLARKSTAFF WRITERValley Morning Star

SpaceX told Los Angeles city officials that it moved development of the Starship Hopper test space vehicle from the Port of Angeles to the company’s Boca Chica Beach launch near Brownsville due to the need to “streamline operations,” according to company.

SpaceX announcing on Jan. 11 that it will lay off roughly 10 percent of its workforce of more than 6,000 employees.

The company recently completed work on the Starship Hopper prototype, a retro-style, silver rocket that has been attracting a great deal of attention at the site just off S.H. 4 and could begin launch/landing tests at Boca Chica as early as next month.

SpaceX spokeswoman Eva Behrend said the decision won’t affect the company’s current manufacturing, design and launch operations at its Hawthorne headquarters and Vandenberg Air Force Base, both in California.

“Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles,” she said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

Posted in on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 5:30 pm.

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SpaceX To Move Development Of Mars Rocket To Boca Chica

Recently-announced plans by SpaceX to streamline operations will be benefiting the Rio Grande Valley in a huge way. As part of the streamlining, …

Recently-announced plans by SpaceX to streamline operations will be benefiting the Rio Grande Valley in a huge way. As part of the streamlining, SpaceX has cancelled its lease with the Port of Los Angeles where it planned to develop a new rocket for manned flights to Mars.

The aeronautics giant announced today it is moving that development to coastal Cameron County. That means the complex at Boca Chica Beach could be the new development site for both the SpaceX Starship and the Super Heavy rocket. Work was recently completed at Boca Chica on the Starship Hopper prototype. Company officials have said test takeoffs and landings could begin next month.

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SpaceX to develop, test Starship vehicle in South Texas

SpaceX said it will develop and test a vehicle for its planned trips to the moon and Mars in South Texas, where it has assembled a prototype.
  • In this Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 photo, a motorcyclist rides off in his Harley Davidson, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP) Photo: Miguel Roberts, Associated Press / Copyright-2019
    In this Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 photo, a motorcyclist rides off in his Harley Davidson, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)
    In this Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 photo, a motorcyclist rides off in his Harley Davidson, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

    Photo: Miguel Roberts, Associated Press

Photo: Miguel Roberts, Associated Press
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In this Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 photo, a motorcyclist rides off in his Harley Davidson, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)
In this Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 photo, a motorcyclist rides off in his Harley Davidson, across from SpaceX prototype Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Photo: Miguel Roberts, Associated Press

SpaceX to develop, test Starship prototype in South Texas
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SpaceX, the commercial space company of billionaire Elon Musk, is working in South Texas to develop and test an early prototype of the vehicle designed to take people to the moon and Mars.

The Starship vehicle, with a test version recently assembled at Boca Chica beach near Brownsville, could one day carry space travelers atop a powerful rocket. The Starship integrated with the Super Heavy Rocket, previously called BFR, is expected to be more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that NASA used to propel astronauts to the moon.

The assembly of the test Starship is reinvigorating the Greater Brownsville community after long delays and roadblocks. SpaceX first announced its Gulf Coast launch facility in 2014, but then years went by with little to no activity. People can now see the vehicle while driving along the beach, stopping to gawk and take pictures.

At HoustonChronicle.com: SpaceX success gives Texans reason to cheer

Gilberto Salinas, who spent three years negotiating with SpaceX to build the Boca Chica beach launch facility, took his family to see the test vehicle on Sunday.

“When this company gets to Mars,” he said, “we will be able to come back and say, ‘Well, we were there when it all started.'”

SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. He started with big ambitions and, six years later, launched the Falcon 1 rocket that became the first privately developed, liquid-fuel rocket to reach Earth’s orbit. The company’s growth has continued since then, winning work with NASA to bring cargo and, one day, astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX selected Boca Chica for a commercial launch site due to its proximity to the equator and distance from populated areas.

SpaceX used a local company to help manage the manufacturing process associated with assembling the test vehicle, said Mario Lozoya, executive director and CEO of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp., one of the organizations that provided incentive money to help attract SpaceX.

Lozoya believes tests and launches will take place this year, which could provide data for future versions of the Starship.

To the moon: SpaceX names first private passenger to fly around the moon

“For people from the immediate area around Brownsville and the border region,” he said, “to see front-end technology in our backyard is really exciting.”

Construction of the Boca Chica launch site had previously been delayed as SpaceX discovered the ground was unstable. The company trucked in 310,000 cubic yards of soil, enough to cover a football field that’s 13 to 14 stories tall, which was put on top of the sand and left to settle and compress before construction.

Unexpected incidents with SpaceX operations outside of Texas, including an anomaly during a flight to the International Space Station in 2015, also forced the company to put its Boca Chica launch site plans on the back burner. The problem temporarily grounded SpaceX operations and demanded the company’s attention.

But work slowly ramped up. Last year, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy — billed as the world’s most powerful operational rocket — from Kennedy Space Center, sending a Tesla sports car into space during the test launch. Musk then floated the idea of testing an even more powerful vehicle in South Texas.

Starship is not the first SpaceX test vehicle to be in Texas. In McGregor, where SpaceX tests all of its rocket engines, the “Grasshopper” reusable rocket prototype was used to perfect the guidance, navigation and control systems for landing a rocket booster vertically. The prototype’s namesake comes from its large, insect-like landing gear. The Grasshopper started with hops of only a matter of inches, but ultimately it flew half a mile into the air.

At HoustonChronicle.com: SpaceX engineers put rocket engines through their paces

In a statement, SpaceX said it’s developing the Starship test vehicle in Texas “to streamline operations.” The decision won’t affect its current manufacturing, design and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In a Tweet, Musk said the test vehicle, or “test hopper,” at Boca Chica beach is at its full diameter of 30 feet, but it’s not at full height. It’s designed to do suborbital tests. SpaceX expects to complete its first orbital prototype around June.

In a separate Tweet, Musk said he will provide a full technical presentation of Starship “after the test vehicle we’re building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April.”

It’s the kind of news that Lozoya said can help counter a barrage of negativity brought onto border communities by the border wall and immigration debates.

“Something like this kind of mitigates that narrative to more of a positive narrative,” he said.

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