BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk has signaled his company's intent to put its much-sought launch pad project on a beach near Brownsville.
The signs came Friday in final comments Musk gave at an unrelated news conference in Washington, D.C. SpaceX is "developing a launch pad on the south coast of Texas, near Brownsville. We're waiting on the final environmental approvals for that. We expect those soon, and we'll probably have that site active in a couple of years," said Musk, who also co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors in addition to the California-based private rocket maker.
A final environmental impact assessment is pending from the Federal Aviation Administration. The assessment could be issued next month and could help determine if the Boca Chica Beach site gets the FAA license required for commercial rocket launches.
Lower Rio Grande Valley promoters are assuming nothing regarding the region's prospects for becoming a space base.
"There is no spaceport project in Brownsville — yet," Gilberto Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, told the Houston Chronicle.
However, "I think it is all looking very, very positive," Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos told The Brownsville Herald. "If he (Musk) is saying that, all that is left now is the results of the EIS (environmental impact statement). And I think what he is trying to say is if this comes out in a positive light and there is no major significant issue that can or cannot be mitigated, then they are going to come to South Texas."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has advised the FAA that rocket launches would "not likely jeopardize" endangered species in Cameron County.
In March 2013, the Legislature approved $15 million in incentives and other considerations to attract the project
The launch pad would be developed at the eastern end of Texas 4 about three miles north of the Mexican border and about five miles south of Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
SpaceX has proposed as many as 12 launches through at least 2025. Its project is among many for which Texas is in the running.
The project is one of several that could make Texas a key spaceflight staging area. Sierra Nevada Corp. already has announced it is exploring the feasibility of using Houston's Ellington Field as the landing facility for its Dream Chaser space plane, a smaller version of the space shuttle. XCOR Aerospace is pursuing a spaceport license for Midland to make the West Texas city the launch site for its suborbital Lynx spacecraft.
"This shows that the state is serious about advancing the commercial space industry," David Alexander, director of Houston's Rice Space Institute, told the Houston Chronicle.
"When you combine this with the power and prestige of Johnson Space Center, its contractor community and the growing commercial space sector in the state, Texas is rapidly becoming a center for the new space ecosystem," he said.