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FAA gives SpaceX final approval for south Texas space port

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches
SpaceX Falcon 9 launches
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Houston Chronicle reported on Thursday that SpaceX has overcome the final regulatory hurdle for building a space port near Brownsville in South Texas. The company, which is considering sites in Florida and other states, has not made a final decision. But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk suggested that the Texas site would be the choice if environmental concerns could be addressed.

Since SpaceX first suggested that it may build a space port in the economically depressed area in the Rio Grande Valley, state and local officials have been almost literally moving heaven and Earth to entice the company to Texas. Texas Gov, Rick Perry personally lobbied Musk. Both the Texas legislature and various local governments have kicked in a number of tax breaks and other inducements. The Texas legislature has also passed a law that allows for the closing of nearby beaches during launches.

Provided that SpaceX goes ahead with the Texas space port, it will launch as many as 12 of its Falcon family of rockets per year, including two of its planned Falcon Heavy. It plans to launch a number of commercial and scientific satellites from the space port. It is possible, at least according to the FAA report, that it may launch flights of its Dragon spacecraft from the site as well.

SpaceX derives a number of advantages from having its own space port. Unlike the launch sites at and near the Kennedy Space Center, it would have full control of the flight range. It would not have to delay and reschedule launches if a higher priority space launch.

Texas politicians have good hopes that a space port at the southern tip of Texas would garner a great deal of economic stimulus, not only from employment, but from tourism. There are also good hopes, especially at the University of Texas at Brownsville, for an equal stimulus for STEM education in the region. South Texas could be as synonymous for space launches as has South Florida.

Texas also has a point of pride in attracting the space port of the Lone Star State. Texas has been a space state since NASA’s Manned Space Flight Center was established south of Houston 50 years ago. Now, with the government space program being down sized by the Obama administration, Texas means to catch the burgeoning wave of commercial space travel.