SpaceX, the commercial launch company that is one of the participants in NASA's commercial crew program, is looking at developing a commercial space port in Texas, very likely in Cameron County at the state's southern tip, according to MSNBC.
What is the proposed commercial space port?
According to a government document extensively quoted in Space Transportation News, the facility would be located at the eastern terminus of State Highway 4, three miles north of the Mexican border on the Texas Gulf Coast. The launch site would include, "an integration- and processing-hangar, a launch pad and stand with its associated flame duct, propellant storage and handling areas, a workshop and office area, and a warehouse for parts storage." In addition there would be a control center inland that would have, "a control center building and a payload processing facility; it might also include a launch vehicle preparation hangar and satellite fuels storage." SpaceX contemplates using the new space port for most of its commercial launches.
The economic impact of a commercial space port includes a $50 million investment and the creation of 100 to 200 jobs.
What would be launched at the proposed space port?
SpaceX contemplates launching the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. The Falcon 9 is capable of boosting over 10,000 kgs to low Earth orbit. It is the launch vehicle that will be used to launch the Dragon space craft, contemplated to boost cargo and astronauts to low Earth orbit. The Falcon Heavy, which is an augmented Falcon 9 with two strap on boosters, is capable of launching 53,000 kgs to low Earth orbit and is contemplated to support beyond LEO exploration as well as launching heavy military satellites. A number of reusable suborbital launchers might also use the space port. 12 commercial launches a year are envisioned.
Before the commercial space port is built, the plan must pass an environmental impact statement. The proposed space port would be near a wildlife sanctuary and a state park. There are also offshore oil rigs nearby that might be placed at hazard by space launches.
The environmental impact statement would study the potential effects of launch operations on, "air quality; noise and compatible land use; land use, including Section 4(f) properties and Farmlands; coastal resources; biological resources, including threatened and endangered species; water resources, including surface waters and wetlands, groundwater, floodplains, and water quality; historical, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources; light emissions and visual resources; hazardous materials, pollution prevention, and solid waste; infrastructure and utilities; and socioeconomics, environmental justice, and children's environmental health and safety."
Even if the space port is approved, the regulatory process will likely take several years.
Other potential Texas sites
SpaceX is looking at other potential sites for a commercial space port in Texas. Nearby Willacy Country is also being studied.
SpaceX already has a test facility for engines in McGregor, Texas about 400 miles north of Cameron County.
Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.