SpaceX to Build Private Spaceport in Texas

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Start-up rocket-maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has unveiled plans to build a commercial spaceport in Texas.

The company, known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, said it will build a facility exclusively to launch commercial satellites in Brownsville, a city located on the southernmost tip of the state on the border with Mexico.

“SpaceX is excited to expand our work in Texas with the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions,” Musk said in a statement released Monday by the office of Gov. Rick Perry to announce the deal.

The state will contribute more than $15 million to the project, including $13 million from a spaceport trust fund and another $2.3 million from the so-called Texas Enterprise Fund, according to the release. The launch pad will create 300 jobs and generate $85 million in capital investment to the local economy, it states.

“Texas has been on the forefront of our nation’s space exploration efforts for decades, so it is fitting that SpaceX has chosen our state as they expand the frontiers of commercial space flight,” the Republican governor said in the statement.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has long been a hub for America’s human space exploration program, from the early Gemini, Apollo and Skylab projects to today’s International Space Station program. The state was also the site of one of the first privately developed rockets launched into space, the Conestoga 1 in 1982.

SpaceX is based outside Los Angeles in Hawthorne, California, and has more than 3,000 employees, including 250 workers at a rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

In addition to commercial business, the company is seeking to break into the military launch market dominated by United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co.

SpaceX in April sued the Air Force to open more missions to competitions in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, program, which launches medium- and heavy-lift military and spy satellites into space using ULA’s families of Atlas and Delta rockets.

At a time of rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the latter’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, SpaceX’s lawsuit drew attention to the fact that the U.S. military launch program uses the Russian-made RD-180 engine on the Atlas V rocket.

The Air Force is now looking into building a domestic alternative to the RD-180 propulsion system and has requested to transfer $100 million in funding this year to hold a rocket launch competition earlier than planned.

The fiscal 2014 funding would be used to add to the launch manifest another mission, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program-20, raising the number of lift-offs to six, according to a copy of the budget reprogramming request.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Ben

    Funny, because wasn’t Texas one of the few states that banned the sale of Teslas? I wouldn’t have have given them the business, but hey, that’s just me.

    • miles

      I think the location being relatively close to the equator trumped the disagreement over Tesla.

      • Ben

        Yeah, I understand that, but there are other states along the same latitude.

        • ajspades

          “build a facility exclusively to launch commercial satellites in Brownsville, a city located on the southernmost tip of the state on the border with Mexico”

          Try looking at a map of Brownsville, TX. It is at the southernmost tip of Texas. Only Florida and Hawaii are further south. And Florida and Hawaii probably don’t have the open real estate available that Texas does. Additionally, Texas is more centrally located on the continent, AND has a harbor nearby. Brownsville is also on an east facing coast (the direction most launches are made) adding to the viability of the location.

          • Ben

            Fair enough.

          • xXTomcatXx

            I think FL would have been a great place for them to explore using. Perhaps one of the closed ex-Air Force bases like Homestead. I’m guessing it came down to dollars and Texas poneyed up more of it.

          • FormerDirtDart

            Homestead Air Reserve Base isn’t closed.
            It is the home of the 482nd Fighter Wing

          • xXTomcatXx

            You are absolutely correct. I thought it had been closed years ago due to BRAC. Apparently it was just handed over to AFRES. Same concept thought. The DoD has tons of land down in South FL which could be leased/sold to SpaceX in lieu of cash.

          • FormerDirtDart

            BRAC just realigned to AF Res. after it was essentially leveled by Hurricane Andrew. Rebuilt with fewer facilities.
            Surprised SpaceX didn’t select the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in P.R. Airfield has been turned into an Int. Air Port, but the eastern edge of the facility has huge spaces. Not to mention excellent built in port facilities.
            Can’t find US territory closer to the equator than P.R.

      • Kevin Smithwick

        The area is also cover by huge salt flats, I was there just this Monday.

    • blight_asdf

      Same CEO/founder, different venture?

      I wonder how big the bribe, I mean, subsidy package was to relocate to Texas. I’m sure any other state in the deep south was going to try, but Texas has the deepest pockets.

      Rick Perry, Elon Musk. You’ll get along famously.

      • Ziv

        They probably will get along well. Perry has been supporting wind power and electric cars since 2010. I think he actually started his support of wind power in 2008 but I can’t find the articles that quoted him.
        https://www.texastribune.org/2010/10/01/where-per

      • Kirk

        Space X already had facilities in McGregor Texas

  • earwig42

    Elon Musk has founded an empire on businesses that are only viable due to government subsidies. The gov’t takes money from the average Joe and launders it through a subsidy so that already wealthy people get thousands of $$$ off on a purchase of a $100,000 car that will be worth nothing when the batteries need to be replaced.

    I don’t think that’s a win for the American taxpayer! Let’s see how much he can wring out of the taxpayers for this new subsidised business.

    • blight_asdf

      I guess the only subsidies you are for is cost-plus for the ULA and Lockheed for the JSF?

      Calwatch agrees, subsidies are bad. http://calwatchdog.com/2012/10/12/calif-throws-a-

      10 million…that’s what ULA flushes down the toilet every time they buy a Russian rocket engine.

    • Ben

      What a complete idiot.

      Do you realize that SpaceX has already reduced spacelift costs to 1/10 of what they were under NASA and ULA? They’re building their own space program from the ground up and revolutionizing the our access to space in the process. I’d much rather give my money to Musk than the idiots at ULA.

      Tesla is pioneering new electric vehicle technologies that make Ford and Toyota’s efforts look like shit, and (the best part) they opened up ALL OF THEIR PATENTS so that other companies can break into the market and make electric vehicles more viable for everyone. Terrible company.

      Also, the Model S is starting around 60K, not 100K. That price will fall once Tesla’s battery factory comes online. Then there’s the Model E coming in a couple years, which will likely be priced around 30K. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

      • Ziv

        I love the Tesla S, but the base model cost $69,900. You net out at $62,400 after tax credit, though. $62k is some serious cash for a car. If Tesla delivers the III in 2017 I will be ecstatic. If they deliver it with an MSRP of less than $40k with an AER of 200+ miles, I will be shocked.

        SpaceX is simply an unbelievable company. They are doing something that most nations can’t do, and they are doing it cheaper and faster than previously thought possible.

        • Ben

          The cost of the Model S comes from the batteries, which Tesla has to buy from Panasonic whom can barely keep up with demand. Once Musk builds his gigafactory, they’re expecting costs to drop and efficiency to improve. If any other company made that claim, I’d be skeptical, but these guys have an amazing track record.

          In short, the Model S is just a stepping stone. You can’t just invent a cheap, awesome, all-electric family car on your first try. They’re getting there.

          • rtsy

            Indeed! Musk has already said his next e-vehicle project is a base model at $30k. Still not cheap but much more affordable.

  • Doug

    Go Space X! Great for Texas and the US!

    • biens

      Wonder if they are going to be building it before or after the pending US economic and financial collapse.

      I’ll try to get out of the US within the next 2-3 years. It’s going to be uglier than 1929.

  • glockman95370

    since this turned into an electric car blog I’ll say this-I wouldn’t even think about buying one until they have one that will go 500 hundred miles on a single charge.manufacters are just lining there pockets with money.green tech is a joke,they are mining as fast as they can,it’s like fracking,ruins the ground water,runoff into rivers poisons them.I’m not a eco freak,but if runoff kills a river an everything else in it,fishing is first to lose.even in Ca. fish have sores on them,but no one does anything about,I even stopped buying a fishing lic.

    • rtsy

      Fracking has nothing to do with green tech.

  • bobbymike

    Great news now we are only a few years from Texas asking SpaceX to make ICBMs so they can have an independent nuclear deterrent. Then ‘don’t mess with Texas’ will have whole new meaning.

    • rtsy

      A Texas with nukes is a sure fire civil war. BAD IDEA

      • bobbymike

        I was probably kidding don’t you think?

    • Deuterium2H

      Where the hell are they gonna get the nukes…it’s not like they have a warhead repository right in the heart of Texas….oh, wait — Pantex. :)

      I kid, of course. The only time in American history when a few nukes were ostensibly under the direct control of the USAF, and not the Commander-in-chief and DOE, was shortly after WW2. And that “oversight” was corrected pretty damn quickly.

  • John Deere

    The headline should read: “SpaceX to Build Private Spaceport in Texas with US taxpayers’ money”…

    SpaceX is funded by NASA and USAF, mostly.

    • rtsy

      Selling your product to the US government and being funded by the US government are two different things.

      • John Deere

        More than half the money for this “Spaceport” comes directly from the public purse. The remainder is from “profits” made on deals with NASA and USAF; the source of these profits is the US taxpayer.

        Just sayin’.

        • rtsy

          Profit isn’t the proper word, these are investments.

    • biens

      The mainstream media isn’t going to tell you the truth as is. The smart ones have learned to automatically edit the headline in their mind.

      If you want accurate or truthful headlines, try rt.com and zerohedge.com

  • http://www.ratheryes.com Maureen Coffey

    “… state will contribute more than $15 million to the project, including $13 million from a spaceport trust fund and another $2.3 million from the so-called Texas Enterprise Fund …” While I am critical of any state subsidies in general, at least this is “peanuts” compared to what the state usually spends on -often dysfunctional- space programs. What intrigues me is that back in the 1970s and early 1980s there already was a private company doing the exact same thing as Elon Musk, the OTRAG or “Orbital-Transport-AG” (orbital transport Inc.), founded by a German inventor and engineer, later doing its research from South Africa, then under sanctions and still apartheid. The company eventually was “sanctioned into oblivion”, also because intelligence services feared the technology might find its hands into the likes as South Africa military which experimented with nuclear warheads and their “partners in crime” Pakistan and North Korea. However, the technology was there a full three decades before Musk came along and NASA might have saved billions had they, like with Nazi Wernher von Braun, instead encouraged that other German too.

  • Dfens

    The ULA gets paid by the US government $1.10 for every $1.00 they spend developing or making any modifications to their rockets. The ULA recognizes that this is an invitation to spend themselves rich and they do just that. They often run into “problems” that require additional government funds to fix and their designs do nothing to contain costs because the more their rockets cost the more money they make.

    SpaceX, on the other hand, funded the design of their rocket from Musk’s own pocket. They designed it and tested it with private funds, not your money. Because it was designed with private funds they had plenty of incentive to keep costs down and problems to a minimum. Because they did not have a guaranteed customer like ULA did with it’s huge Air Force bureaucracy, SpaceX had plenty of incentive to keep vehicle costs low, which is largely why their launch costs are 1/10th of ULA’s.

    There’s spending public money wisely and spending public money stupidly. Throwing more money at ULA is spending our money stupidly.

    • John Deere

      Only the initial rockets were designed and tested with money from private investors, mainly as “proof of concept” demonstrators. The majority of SpaceX’s R&D expenditure now comes directly from NASA or USAF.

      • Dfens

        Wow, now there’s a news flash. This will shock you even more, SpaceX doesn’t plan on eating the cost of development. They are going to make that money back through the profits they make on their successful launches, just like Apple covers the development costs of their iPods by making their customers pay. Pretty sneaky, huh?

        • John Deere

          There’s a difference in ploughing profits back into R&D, and getting taxpayers’ to foot the bill.

          • Dfens

            You don’t say.

  • blight_asdf

    I’m unsure how Tesla took over a discussion of SpaceX…

  • David

    If you’re going to do subsidies, this is the way. Maryland taxpayers provided $15 million of “incentives” to have some parts of “House of Cards” filmed in Baltimore, plus $12 million the second season and a similar amount for the 3rd season. So for $15 million, Texas gets a rocket factory, and for almost $40 million Maryland gets Netflix reruns.

    Even worse when you consider Texas has about 7X the population.

  • hibeam

    That wanted to build it in California but it would have annoyed the Spotted Skaank Beetle.

    • Godzilla

      SpaceX already have a launch site in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

      The problem is the coastline is facing the wrong direction for an equatorial flight to geostationary orbit.

  • Jo Byden

    If one of Muskox’s toys crashes in Florida on my stuff, I am gonna sue him for 100 Trillion dollars.

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