SAN DIEGO – After months of rumors, (SpaceX) has confirmed it will develop a commercial launch site at Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County, Texas, with launches beginning as soon as late next year.
The site, which SpaceX says will be the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions, is near the city of Brownsville, and will be sized for up to 12 missions per year. The company confirmed the selection on Aug. 2 after submitting planning applications to install solar panels in an area near the planned launch control center by the Gulf of Mexico.
Last week the Brownsville Economic Development Council also gave one of the strongest clues yet that the SpaceX decision had been confirmed by submitting an application for a permit for construction of a tracking center dubbed Stargate (Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-Hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission), which will be developed by SpaceX with the University of Texas. The application says that Stargage, in addition to tracking spacecraft, will be used to develop, test, and utilize radio frequency technologies for both scientific and commercial purposes.
SpaceX’s selection of the south Texas launch site comes after at least two years of reviewing bids from interested parties around the U.S. As of early last year the company was still considering bids from Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and Virginia. As part of the incentives offered by the state of Texas to bring SpaceX to the site, some $13 million has been offered from the Spaceport Transport Trust Fund, while an additional $2.3 million has been offered from the state’s Enterprise Fund.
Since 2012, SpaceX has gradually bought around 100 acres of land in the area through two subsidiary companies; Dogleg and The Flats at Mars Crossing. The company is expected to develop almost 70% of the site for the launch facility, with the rest of the land remaining undeveloped. According to the, the license for the site allows SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles, with up to 12 launch operations a year through at least 2025. The license also indicates that most of the expected payloads from the Texas site will be commercial, with a smaller number of science and military payloads making up the balance.