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SpaceX considering a new commercial spaceport in Texas

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March 10, 2013

SpaceX headquarters in Southern California

SpaceX headquarters in Southern California

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SpaceX founder and all-around renaissance man Elon Musk told the packed crowd at his keynote at the South By Southwest Interactive (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, that he didn't make the trip to the Lone Star state just for them. Musk said he's also in the state capitol to chat with lawmakers about the possibility of opening a new commercial launch facility in the state.

So far SpaceX, which claims NASA as a key customer, has conducted its launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Musk said that given SpaceX's billion dollar contracts with the federal space agency, it has made sense to launch from those two government facilities, but opening a solely commercial spaceport is a key next step for the company.

Musk said he's been looking for a location that's on American soil and near the equator. Other potential locations for a future SpaceX launch pad include Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Georgia, but he spoke favorably of the chances that Texas would be the chosen site. The company already operates a rocket development and testing site at McGregor, Texas.

SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas
SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas

He said that some help would likely be needed from the Texas legislature to "get commercial spaceflight into the (law) books here." Any proposed site would also need to pass environmental permitting screens.

A package of incentives from competing states will almost certainly enter into SpaceX's decision, a factor Musk has hinted at in other interviews.

One non-negotiable limitation of SpaceX's siting choice is the requirement that it be located on U.S. soil. That's because a quirk of American law considers just about all space-related technology to be military hardware, which can't be shared across international borders.

Musk said that if Texas is chosen to be the site of its future spaceport, the first launch is still likely a few years off, given the time required for permitting, construction and testing.

Source: SXSW

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets.   All articles by Eric Mack
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6 Comments

I would think that the US Virgin Islands or Hawaii (especially if you could build the launch pad high on a volcano) would be a better location.

Slowburn
11th March, 2013 @ 05:06 pm PDT

Still short spaceports save PR & HI

Good to have TX, now we have CA & FL & VA & NM for spaceports.

Hawaii is ideal as is PR.

Stephen N Russell
11th March, 2013 @ 06:18 pm PDT

@slowburn - An elevation increase isn't a huge deal, the logistics of your locations would erase their gains, and then some.

Derek Howe
11th March, 2013 @ 06:29 pm PDT

re; Derek Howe

Lifting stuff by truck a mile, mile and a half by truck is much cheaper than lifting stuff by rocket the same distance through the thickest atmosphere and minutely stronger gravity. This is especially true if the stuff has to be put on a truck anyway. And let us not forget that if you get the right part of a mountain a very quick train on a very straight track can make a big difference.

At $3,368 per kg it does not take a big difference in payload capability for a notable increase in profitability.

Slowburn
11th March, 2013 @ 08:11 pm PDT

SpaceX has not yet launched from Vandenberg. The Falcon Heavy is scheduled to lift off from there on its first flight sometime later this year or possibly not until 2014. So far SpacX has launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Ron Atkins
11th March, 2013 @ 10:20 pm PDT

Cape Verde off the coast of africa has the equatorial advantage stable democratic government good ports, large population for support services in need of a new industry.

Topping it off you could get far greater cooperation with local authorities cheaper than buying off US politicians.

Joseph Mertens
17th July, 2013 @ 02:30 pm PDT
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