SpaceX Decides to Build Starship in Texas; R&D to Stay in California

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

SpaceX has decided it would be easier to build its giant Starship spacecraft in Texas rather than at the Port of Los Angeles in California as originally planned, Alan Boyle reports.

SpaceX says it’ll build and test the prototypes for its next-generation Starship space cruiser and Super Heavy booster in South Texas, despite a deal it struck to build a rocket factory at the Port of Los Angeles.

At least by some accounts, the turnabout is a setback to Los Angeles’ efforts to build a high-tech “Silicon Harbor” at the port, with SpaceX’s planned 18-acre site on Terminal Island as the centerpiece. The Los Angeles City Council approved a 20-year lease agreement with billionaire CEO Elon Musk’s company in May.

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“We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport,” Musk explained today in a tweet.

However, Musk also said development work for Starship and its methane-fueled Raptor engines would continue to be done at SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters. He said any confusion about SpaceX’s plans was due to “our miscommunication.”

SpaceX is building a launch site at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville. It is assembling a subscale Starship hopper to conduct atmospheric tests later this year.

SpaceX to Build BFR at Port of Los Angeles

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have confirmed the company plans to build its BFR rocket at the Port of Los Angeles.

The city Board of Harbor Commissioners will vote Thursday on whether to lease 19 acres to SpaceX for the manufacturing site. The commission’s staff has recommended approval of an initial 10-year term, with two 10-year options, at an annual rent of approximately $1.38 million….

SpaceX, based in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, already uses the Port of Los Angeles for missions that recover Falcon 9 first-stage boosters on a floating platform in the Pacific and when it recovers supply capsules that parachute into the ocean after missions to the international space station.

“SpaceX has called the Port of Los Angeles home to our west coast recovery operations since 2012 and we truly appreciate the City of Los Angeles’ continued partnership,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and COO, said in a statement.

“As announced today by Mayor Garcetti, the Port will play an increasingly important role in our mission to help make humanity multi-planetary as SpaceX begins production development of BFR — our next generation rocket and spaceship system capable of carrying crew and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

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SpaceX Might Build BFR in Los Angeles

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is looking to expand its footprint at the Port of Los Angeles in a move possibly related the manufacturing of its BFR booster.

SpaceX has entered into preliminary negotiations with the Port of Los Angeles for a lease that would expand the Hawthorne space company’s port facilities to manufacture “large commercial transportation vehicles.”

Port and company officials would not comment on what exactly would be built on the 18-acre site on Terminal Island, but public documents suggest that it will involve rockets or spacecraft.

SpaceX, which currently makes its rockets in Hawthorne, has plans to make a huge next-generation spaceship and rocket system known as BFR. The reusable spaceship and booster, which will measure more than 340 feet tall when stacked, is intended to eventually replace SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and its new Falcon Heavy heavy-lift rocket, which flew for the first time last month.

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, which oversees port management and operations, voted last week to approve California Environmental Quality Act regulations necessary for the board to later vote on a lease for the proposed project.