SpaceX Files for Permit to Fly Starship at Boca Chica

Super Heavy Starship (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for authority to fly its Starship vehicle to 22.5 km (14 miles/73,819 ft) from its test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

The special temporary authority “is necessary to authorize Starship suborbital test vehicle communications for SpaceX Mission 1569 from the Boca Chica launch pad, and the experimental recovery following the suborbital launch.

“Recovery is limited to 2 functions: (1) prelaunch checkout test of the TC uplink from the ground station at Boca Chica (less than five minutes in duration) and (2) experimental uplink testing from the ground station at Boca Chica during descent,” the application stated.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will provide an update on plans for Starship and the Super Heavy rocket on Sept. 28 at the Boca Chica site.

SpaceX Aborts 150-meter Starhopper Flight

The clocked ticked down to zero, but when it came to go, SpaceX’s Starhopper vehicle failed to lift off from its launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

After the last-second abort, Elon Musk’s rocket company scrubbed plans to fly the Raptor engine equipped vehicle to 150 meters (492 ft). SpaceX said it could try again as early as Tuesday.

It would have been the second flight test for Starhopper. The vehicle flew to about 20 meters altitude on July 25.

Starhopper is a test vehicle to develop technologies for SpaceX’s planned SuperHeavy Starship — a fully-reusable rocket and spacecraft system designed for human trips to the moon and Mars.

A second Starhopper is being built in Florida for testing there.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave permission for a flight to only 150 meters (492 ft) instead of the 200 meters (656 ft) that SpaceX requested. It also raised the liability insurance requirement for the flight from $30 million to $100 million.

Residents of nearby Boca Chica Village have been told to stay outside during the test in case an “over pressure event” (i.e., explosion) breaks windows in their homes.

SpaceX Pushes Back Starship Hopper Testing by Week

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

The Brownsville Herald reports that SpaceX’s plan for hover tests of its Starship Hopper vehicle has been pushed back by a week.

The county had posted notice earlier this week that testing scheduled for late May was rescheduled to the week of June 3, but those plans are now on hold for another week.

According to a notice posted on the county’s website, State Highway 4 to BocaChicaBeach is scheduled to close from 2 to 8 p.m. on June 11 and/or in the alternative on June 12 and/or on the alternative on June 13.

The county has also established a hotline for road closures. The public can call (956) 548-9541 for information about the closures.











SpaceX Wears Out its Welcome in Boca Chica Village

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)
Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

The residents of a small Texas village located less than two miles from SpaceX’s future launch site are not pleased with the company’s future plans.

People who live in Boca Chica Village, all 26 of them, knew Elon Musk’s SpaceX company would put the South Texas town on the map after it was selected last year as the world’s first commercial rocket-launch site. Now, many want SpaceX gone and their obscurity back.

The residents say SpaceX representatives told them recently they would be required to register with the county, wear badges and pass through checkpoints on launch days, which will occur about once a month beginning as soon as next year. During a 15- hour launch time frame, their movement around the village could be restricted. If they happen to be picking up groceries past a designated “point of no return,” forget about going home.

SpaceX’s proposed methods to enforce the safety rules — sweeping the beach with drones and video surveillance — aren’t helping matters. While the rules still might change, all this makes residents wish SpaceX would go away, with some even talking about acts of civil disobedience or maybe a lawsuit.

“I’m like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’” said Cheryl Stevens, 55, who settled in Boca Chica Village a decade ago in search of quiet, rustic beauty. “It’s like Nazi Germany.”











SpaceX’s Busy To-Do List for Rest of 2015

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)
SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was making the rounds last week in Washington, D.C., speaking before the Satellite 2015 conference and a House Armed Services subcommittee meeting. Much of the focus was on the latter, where Shotwell engaged in a she said-he said battle over launch costs with United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno.

More interesting were the updates Shotwell provided on SpaceX’s plans for 2015 and beyond. What emerged is just how crowded the company’s agenda is for the rest of the year. The table below provides a summary.

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SpaceX Breaks Ground on Launch Facility in Texas

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)
Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Texas Governor’s Office PR) — Gov. Rick Perry on Monday helped break ground on the SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility located near Boca Chica Beach, which will launch commercial satellites into orbit.

“This announcement represents a huge step forward for our state and continues our nation’s proud legacy of scientific advancement,” Gov. Perry said. “It builds upon our pioneer heritage, our tradition of thinking bigger, dreaming bolder, and daring to do the impossible. SpaceX is the latest in a long line of forward-thinking companies that have made Texas home, and I couldn’t be prouder to help break ground on this revolutionary new facility.”

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SpaceX to Break Ground on Launch Center on Monday

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Received the following invitation from SpaceX this afternoon, which I’ve edited down.

Media are invited to attend SpaceX’s official groundbreaking ceremony for the world’s first private commercial orbital launch facility on Monday, September 22, 2014. The facility will be built near Boca Chica Beach, Texas and expected to be complete by 2016.

Following the groundbreaking ceremony in Boca Chica, media are also welcome to attend a reception in Brownsville honoring local community officials from across South Texas, whose support has made the construction of the launch facility possible.











FAA Approves SpaceX Launch Complex in Texas

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved SpaceX’s plan to build a spaceport south of Brownsville, Texas, to launch Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and suborbital rockets.

In its record of decision, the FAA said that while the environmentally preferable alternative would be to reject the application and having nothing constructed in the beachfront area, the option is not in keeping with the agency’s purpose.

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Group Launches Petition Opposing SpaceX Launch Facility in South Texas

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

A group has started a petition urging SpaceX to find another place to launch its Falcon rockets other than Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas.

To: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (Space X)

This south Texas site which you have selected for your rocket launch facility is surrounded by federally protected land, home to threatened and endangered species. It borders the ecologically essential South Bay of the Laguna Madre, the nation’s only hypersaline lagoon, a nursery for shrimp and coastal fish.

Please choose another location for your rocket launch site.

Read the full petition.

Over on the El Rrun Rrun blog, Juan Montoya says that it’s not just environmental concerns that should block SpaceX from building a launch facility near the beach. He also accuses local officials of over hyping the number of jobs created and the resulting economic benefits while offering too much in subsidies to SpaceX.

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Spaceports Roundup: SpaceX Buys Land, Kodiak Plans Launch, NM Schools Fear Funding Loss

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

A brief roundup of spaceport news in Texas, New Mexico and Alaska:

Brownsville, Texas — SpaceX has increased its land holdings in the Boca Chica Beach area from 12 undeveloped lots to 72 lots, the Valley Morning Star reports. The company is considering building a private launch complex on the Texas Gulf Coast from which to launch its commercial missions. SpaceX and local officials is awaiting the completion of an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Read the full story.

Las Cruces, New Mexico — A deal to provide local schools with funding in return for residents supporting a tax increase to fund Spaceport America could unravel. A state legislator has asked that funds raised for this purpose be considered as part of a larger program that redistributes tax revenues to support schools statewide. Millions of dollars in tax revenues that currently fund Sierra and Doña Ana county public schools are at risk.

Read the full story.

Kodiak, Alaska — The flight-challenged Kodiak Launch Complex has only one rocket launch scheduled for 2014, but it is pursuing three additional ones for future years. “Things are coming in,” said Alaska Aerospace Corp. COO Mark Greby.  “We’ve got people coming in the door now. We’ll get some of them.” The state is eager to see more launches from the spaceport in order to reduce subsidies. Officials are also looking at using Kodiak to support drone flights and monitor launches from other spaceports, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.

Read the full story.











Agreement Reached on Beach Closings for Likely SpaceX Launch Complex

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

A brief update from Brownsville, where officials have reached an agreement on how to close beaches if SpaceX builds a new commercial spaceport along the Texas Gulf Coast:

Cameron County and the Texas General Land Office have signed a memorandum of agreement outlining how the county will handle the temporary closure of Boca Chica Beach for possible rocket launches.

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Perry Signs Beach Closing Bill for Proposed SpaceX Spaceport

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed a new law that will allow officials to temporarily close Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville for launches of SpaceX’s Falcon rockets.

The California-based company is considering constructing a seaside commercial launch complex near the Mexican border. SpaceX also is looking at locations in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

The Texas site is currently considered to be the frontrunner in the competition, with the Federal Aviation Administration having already completed a positive environmental impact statement on the proposed location.

Under the law, the beach could not be closed on holidays or summer weekends. SpaceX has said it expects to launch about 12 times per year.