Space

April 19, 2012

SpaceX plans its own launch site in Texas

by Raphael Jaffe
staff writer
NASA image
An artists' impression of the Dragon approaching the International Space Station's grappling arm.

SpaceX announced last November that it was considering sites in Alaska, California, Florida, Texas and Virginia to build its own launch site.

April 10, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation announced it will prepare an environmental impact statement for a SpaceX commercial launch complex in Brownsville, Texas, for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations, including those carrying supplies to the International Space Station.

FAA plans a May 15 presentation and hearing in Brownsville as part of the scoping process.

There would be as many as 12 launches each year using the Falcon 9, with up to two of the Falcon Heavy. In addition, SpaceX might have several suborbital launches of their Grasshopper rocket.

The Grasshopper is a vertical takeoff-vertical landing rocket. It will consist of a Falcon 9 first stage tank, a single Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs and a support structure, plus other pressurization tanks, all attached to the support structure and will be 106 feet tall.

“SpaceX is considering multiple potential locations around the country for a new launch pad for commercial payloads. The Brownsville area is one of the possibilities,” SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Grantham said. “It would be a few years before any location could be ready for launches.”

The company is currently developing a new launch complex at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., for the Falcon Heavy, which according to plans would have the greatest lift capacity of any U.S. rocket since the Apollo Saturn system. Their SLC 40 launch site at Cape Canaveral is readying for launch of Dragon to the ISS, using Falcon 9 for the third time. They also use their newly built rocket engine ground test facility near McGregor, Texas. It is about 429 miles north of Brownsville.

Brownsville lies on the western Gulf of Mexico at the Mexican border. The proposed launch site is on an undeveloped tract within close proximity of the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport at the terminus of State Highway 4. There is water access to the site.

The facility would include an integration and processing hangar, launch pad with flame duct, propellant storage and handling area, workshop, and warehouse and office complex. There would be a launch control center and payload processing facility just to the west of the launch site. Launch trajectories would follow an easterly course over the Gulf of Mexico.

Locating a major facility in Texas would be a shrewd move by SpaceX. Its future largely relies on commercial space projects, such as astronaut transport to the space station. Texas seems to dominate the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, with five members, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson has been one of Commercial Crew’s strongest critics. Bringing a major investment into their state may allay their fears of a declining role for Texas in space.

SpaceX has already discussed its plans with the Brownsville Independent School District. They have said that an educational center would be built. It would also be possible for the district to invite SpaceX employees to make presentations at the local schools. They have also sent information to homeowners at Boca Chica beach. SpaceX is thus building local support in advance of the Environmental Impact Assesment.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA image by Eric Stern

NASA announces early stage innovations space tech research grants

NASA image by Eric Stern Advanced thermal protection materials modeling using the Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method simulates the flow through porous TPS materials. Research into these sorts of advanced technologies e...
 
 

NASA awards launch services contract for Ionospheric Connection Explorer

NASA has selected Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., to provide launch services for the Ionospheric Connection Explorer mission. ICON is targeted to launch in June 2017 from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands aboard a Pegasus XL launch vehicle from Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 aircraft. The total...
 
 

NASA selects student teams for high-powered rocket challenge

NASA has selected eight teams from middle and high schools across the country to participate in the 2014-2015 NASA Student Launch Challenge, April 7-12, organized by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Student Launch Challenge engages students in a research-based, experiential exploration activity. Teams participating in the challenge must design, build and...
 

 

Northrop Grumman awarded advanced technology microwave sounder JPSS

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $121 million contract by NASA to build and deliver the third Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System. ATMS provides critical atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles to support weather forecasting. The instrument has 22 channels spanning the frequency band from 23.8 GHz to 183.3 GHz. Under...
 
 
NASA photograph by Jim Yungel

NASA DC-8 continues west Antarctic ice study

NASA photograph by Jim Yungel The Thurston Island calving front off of western Antarctica as seen from the window of NASA’s DC-8 flying observatory Nov. 5, 2014. NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory has two weeks of suppor...
 
 
NASA photograph by Emmett Given

NASA opens registration for 2015 Exploration Rover Challenge

NASA photograph by Emmett Given Pedaling across a simulated alien landscape of rock, craters and shifting sand is one of the nearly 90 teams of high school, college and university students from across the United States and arou...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>