On August 4, 2014, officials from the SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) corporation announced that the property they had purchased over the past several years near Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County at Brownsville, Texas would be the site of their primary launch vehicle facility and control complex.
The announcement came with as much excitement and authority as one could imagine.
In his press release, Musk stated, “SpaceX is excited to expand our work in Texas with the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions. We appreciate the support of Gov. Perry and numerous other federal, state and local officials who have partnered with us to make this vision a reality,”
The SpaceX CEO concluded the release by saying “In addition to creating hundreds of high tech jobs for the Texas workforce, this site will inspire students, expand the supplier base and attract tourists to the south Texas area.”
Elon Musk is a very successful business magnate, investor and inventor.
He is not only the CEO and CTO of SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies), he also took Pay Pal and turned it into one of the most successful email payment companies and co-founded Tesla Motors known for its very fast and sporty electric car.
Musk has also proposed a new transportation method he calls, "hyperloop," a hypothetical subsonic air travel machine that stretches approximately 350 miles (560 km) from Sylmar (a northern district of Los Angeles) to Hayward (east of San Francisco) and would theoretically allow commuters to travel between the cities in 30 minutes or less; which could revolutionize ground travel.
Musk’s SpaceX decision to bring the world’s first commercial launch complex to the Brownsville, Texas area is simply exciting and positive for both Texas and the nation.
Not since the United States space program was developed under NASA and Florida’s Cape Canaveral was named the primary launch facility, has there been as much excitement and competition over the location of where rockets would be launched.
Of course, Texas was also in competition for Mission Control for NASA’s Moon project back in the 1960's which was ultimately won by Houston, Texas and continues a very successful part of NASA’s involvement in its space program today.
Unlike government supported NASA, SpaceX is a completely private space venture with its own vision and goals free to take bids and accept financial considerations from the areas it chooses.
Texas was in a very vigorous competition for the SpaceX launch facility with other coastal community areas including Florida (where SpaceX has already launched several rockets), Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and several others.
SpaceX already operates a Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas which has grown to over 250 employees since starting operations in 2003; so it appears that SpaceX is very high on Texas.
SpaceX currently has agreements with both Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida where it currently leases space and facilities from the government for testing and launches.
In addition, the United States Air Force has just certified the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to be used in its launch of military satellites along with its current use of Delta and Atlas vehicles.
SpaceX has launched many resupply missions to the International Space Station and is under contract for even more; it has also launched several satellites (government and commercial) into orbit.
SpaceX is very serious in its plans for the Boca Chica Beach facility.
SpaceX proposes to build a vertical launch area and control center to support a minimum of 12 commercial launches per year. The vehicles to be launched include the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and smaller reusable, suborbital launch vehicles.
A very interesting point here is Space X’s mention of the launching of their Falcon Heavy vehicle which is on par with the old Saturn V vehicle used by NASA in their lunar missions.
Space X states: “Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket, a launch vehicle of scale and capability unequaled by any other currently flying”.
They go on to point out that only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973 delivered more payload to orbit; however, with today’s technology and construction, such payloads are considered highly unlikely.
Consider the fact that the average smart phone has a faster and better operating system and memory than what the very heavy computers installed in the Apollo and Lunar landing vehicles had and it becomes obvious that such payloads will no longer be necessary.
What is really exciting is Space X’s ultimate goal of returning man to the moon and ultimately going to Mars.
Space X makes no secret that the Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.
Having grown up in Florida in the glory days of the Space Race to the moon, this writer witnessed first hand dozens of launches while feeling the ground shake under my feet; that was such an exciting time.
Now as a resident of deep South Texas, the excitement is almost too much to imagine; the opportunity to see it happen all over again.
How exciting it is; just think, those of us who live here might actually witness humans returning to the moon and headed for Mars and all from our own back yard.
As that well known Texas Country/Western singer Willy Nelson (no stranger to space himself) sings so well, “looks like we’re back on the road (to space) again”.
© 2014 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III