will prepare an environmental impact statement for a commercial launch complex in Brownsville, Texas, one of several U.S. sites the 10-year-old Hawthorne, Calif.-based aerospace company is assessing for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations, including those carrying supplies to the International Space Station.
FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation plans a May 15 presentation and hearing in Brownsville as part of the scoping process, according to an April 10 agency notice in the Federal Register.
SpaceX envisions up to a dozen launches annually of the medium-lift Falcon 9 and larger Falcon Heavy, as well as a range of suborbital missions using a Falcon 9 core-stage vehicle.
“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 in an email. “It would be a few years before any location could be ready for launches.”
Last Nov. 18, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the company would seek a new site to meet anticipated launch demands from its commercial customers. After listing California, Florida, Virginia and Alaska — states with existing federal or state-run launch facilities — as prospects, Musk noted that “given the complexity of developing a rocket launch site, SpaceX will be pursuing several options concurrently in order to fully understand the pros and cons of each location.”
At the moment, SpaceX is preparing for the April 30 launch of a Falcon 9/Dragon mission under’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. Launching from Cape Canaveral, the three-week mission is expected to demonstrate the company’s readiness to shoulder regular cargo deliveries to the ISS. In late 2008, awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to carry out a dozen post-demo supply missions through 2015.
The company is currently developing a new launch complex at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and operates a ground test facility near McGregor, Texas.
Located 350 mi. south of Austin, the state capitol, Brownsville lies on the western Gulf of Mexico at the Mexican border. In addition to providing water access, 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.
The rapidly growing city lies at 26 deg. N., 97.5 deg. W.
The proposed facility construction by SpaceX includes an integration and processing hangar, launch pad with flame duct, propellant storage and handling area, workshop, warehouse and office complex. SpaceX proposes a launch control center and payload processing facility just to the west of the launch site.
All launch trajectories would follow an easterly course over the gulf, according to the FAA notice.