SpaceX’s new spaceport

by | Apr 11, 2012 | Seradata News | 0 comments

According to an FAA document published in the Federal Register, SpaceX is drafting an environmental impact statement (EIS) to build its own brand-new launch site right about here, between Port Isabel, Texas and the border with Mexico. Far as I can tell, the notice was first posted on the excellent Hobbyspace.com.

If SpaceX choses to build there, which is not inevitable, the complex would consist of a launch vehicle area — complete with processing area, launch pad and flame ducts — and a control center.

Operations would consist of up to 12 launches per year with a maximum of two Falcon Heavy launches. All Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches would be expected to have commercial payloads, including satellites or experimental payloads. In addition to standard payloads, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy may also carry a capsule, such as the SpaceX Dragon capsule. All launch trajectories would be to the east over the Gulf of Mexico.

This document does not mean SpaceX has committed to building there, and the Brownsville Herald, the local newspaper, quotes an area economic development official as saying that SpaceX is also looking at sites in Florida and Puerto Rico.

There have long been rumors and hints that SpaceX was considering building in the area, but SpaceX has consistently declined to speak on the record about it. Within the last couple of days the company has confirmed looking at at Brownsville-area location.

The location is very well-suited to rocket launches. The general idea with non-polar orbital launches is to launch east, as close to the equator as possible to take advantage of the Earth’s rotation. Ideally nothing should be beneath the rocket’s flight path (Russia and China both launch over isolated landmass instead of ocean, the downside being that sometimes a piece of something lands where it shouldn’t). The slight but crucial advantage gained this way has given rise to some interesting solutions — France may never officially decolonise French Guiana because of its launch site in Kourou, and platforms like SeaLaunch and Stratolaunch take a mobile approach.

Note that the site isn’t all that far from SpaceX’s existing McGregor, TX engine facilities.

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