When SpaceX does begin sending people to Mars, the last part of Earth they see from the ground — perhaps ever if it’s a one-way trip — will likely be the company’s private spaceport in Boca Chica Village, Texas. And it looks like the company is gearing up to get the facility operational before the end of the year.
For now, SpaceX leases three launch facilities from the United States government: a pair in Florida at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and another at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The company’s South Texas Launch Site would give SpaceX total control of the launch process for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Company founder Elon Musk has also indicated the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, would likely launch toward Mars and elsewhere from Boca Chica Village.
In a statement to Teslarati, SpaceX Senior Communication Manager James Gleeson confirmed the site is moving toward operational status within the next several months. Though that likely doesn’t mean the company’s existing rockets would immediately decamp from their current launchpads before the end of 2018, it might mean SpaceX could begin suborbital tests on the BFR from South Texas within the next year.
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“We are currently targeting late 2018 for the site in South Texas to be operational,” Gleeson told *Teslarati. “But we’re reviewing our progress and will turn the site online as soon as it’s ready.”
The availability of the Texas launch site could make a significant difference in determining the timeline for the BFR, the existence of which Musk announced last September at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.
Once the facility is ready and approved for orbital launches of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy — which could happen as early as 2019 — this would also presumably increase how many missions SpaceX can undertake. Continually ramping up SpaceX’s launch cadence is key to Musk’s plan to fund the nearly incomprehensible price of Martian exploration.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell previously indicated in January that the site would be operational by late 2018 or early 2019. Given the Boca Chica Village site is plainly visible to outsiders, it will likely be obvious when construction begins in earnest. SpaceX’s pad construction team was previously busy working on refurbishments and upgrades at the two Florida launch sites, but they should now be free to begin work in South Texas.