SpaceX, perhaps the most burgeoning success of entrepreneur Elon Musk, is gaining ground with a new facility in Texas, allowing them to push forward with their planetary goals with evident ease. The space exploration and technology company has hardly run into any obstacles on their path toward eventual Mars colonization, and is setting the bar high for future spaceflight companies like them. The daring but dedicated moves made by Musk have shown that gumption combined with skills and resources will result in familiar territories being charted in new ways.
Last week, SpaceX announced that the company would be moving their commercial launch events and resources from Florida to a new facility just east of Brownsville, Texas. The city of Brownsville, the hub of about 180,000 residents on the southern tip of Texas, while one of the most impoverished areas in the U.S., is also one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the U.S. With space exploration remaining a favorite for spectation throughout the U.S., especially in California, Florida and Texas, the continued influx of residents may well provide Brownsville with greater tourism revenue, leading to further business avenues for SpaceX.
The Brownsville, Texas launch facility will provide SpaceX with nearly 56 acres of its own ground that it has gained to perform nearly all of its future launches, the majority of which are critical for its planetary goals. Based on the company’s current schedule, it is estimated that over 100 launches could take place throughout the next 10 years. SpaceX hopes to have humans on Mars by 2025, and the new resources at their fingertips will facilitate this much-sought-after colonization.
There is a host of variables that play into SpaceX’s decision to move to the Texas complex. Florida’s Cape Canaveral, while still one of the longest-standing sites for governmental space launches, is primarily the grounds for U.S. government and NASA projects. Because of the essential tenure of these organizations, outside companies such as SpaceX are required to pass a collection of regulations and conditions in order for their rockets to fly. However, this does not mean that SpaceX got a free pass to launch in Brownsville after the details of its facility were arranged. Before the announcement of the facility switch, SpaceX had to pass an environmental compliance review from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Two additional complications that likely swayed SpaceX to seek a facility elsewhere were Florida’s less consistent weather patterns and the need to schedule their launches around any other organizations. SpaceX will proceed with NASA-collaborative launches in Florida, but will pick up where they left off with their commercial launches in Texas. The weather in Texas is often slightly drier and clearer than Florida, to say nothing of hurricanes or storms. Even weather aside, having full freedom to launch as it pleases will allow SpaceX to become even more prolific in the months and years ahead.
Florida’s Cape Canaveral, while certainly struck by the loss of SpaceX’s involvement and the tributaries of other commercial interests that it helped to facilitate, is not planning on letting the track record of their city’s space history die yet. The state’s agency for economic space development, Space Florida, is looking to generate alternative plans to mitigate against further losses. A number of their officials have already expressed interest in building a new and independent launch site for other commercial companies, such that Florida could continue competing on this level. With the resources, knowledge and experience that Florida still holds from past space events and launches, it is highly possible that the state could come across new ideas and plans to reinvigorate their sector of space economics.
Until then, Elon Musk and his teams will push forward with their planetary goals on the new Texas ground they have gained with great strength and focus. As NASA remains one of the most fervent and zealous supporters of SpaceX’s initiatives, particularly for Mars, NASA will do well to not let any preconceptions or assumptions take the place of what young companies and fresh experience can enable. All eyes and ears remain on SpaceX from throughout the country and the world, as the company seems to achieve success in all of their requirements and undertakings.
Opinion by Brad Johnson