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SpaceX considering Texas as a location for new launch pad

April 10, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan
  • SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is prepared in its hangar at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is prepared in its hangar at Cape Canaveral,… (Al Diaz / Miami Herald )

Hawthorne-based rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is looking into launching its rockets from a small Texas town on the Gulf of Mexico.

The company, better known as SpaceX, filed a document with the Federal Aviation Administration saying it was taking its first steps toward establishing a launch pad in Cameron County, Texas.

SpaceX already has a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and is building a new launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara.

Company spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham said SpaceX is considering multiple potential locations around the country for a new commercial launch pad. The area near Brownsville, Texas, along the coast, is a possibility, she said.

“There is a long way to go before this could happen,” Grantham said.

Texas has long been associated with the nation’s space program because of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. But that’s for the mission control center, not rocket launches.

Only four U.S. states -- Virginia, California, Alaska and Florida -- have active launch sites.

A new document, which became public April 10, declared that SpaceX was preparing a environmental report for a possible launch pad and added that the company was gauging public opinion.

"SpaceX proposes to construct a vertical launch area and a control center area to support up to 12 commercial launches per year," the document said.

Gilberto Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, said that as a city in the southernmost tip of Texas, Brownsville was ideal to be a rocket launch point.

He added that in the early days of NASA, Brownsville was considered as a possible center for space operations before officials settled on Cape Canaveral. "All these years later, we're glad to be looked at again," Salinas said.

SpaceX builds its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules in a vast complex in Hawthorne, which once housed construction on fuselage sections for Boeing’s 747 jumbo jets.

The company also has a rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas. To date, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule have had two successful test launches from Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX plans to send its unmanned capsule to dock with the International Space Station on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a demonstration flight for NASA.

If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to accomplish the feat.

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