Texas Governor Confirms SpaceX’s Gulf Launch Site

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) confirmed Aug. 4 what had been widely speculated for weeks, if not months: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will establish a commercial launch site on the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville, Texas. The state is providing about $15 million in funds to support spaceport development, although the release notes that construction will involve “$85 million in capital investment,” presumably from SpaceX.

The announcement was the culmination of several years of efforts by local and state officials, including Perry, to lure SpaceX to establish the launch site there. The letter noted state officials first talked with SpaceX in the spring of 2011, and Perry had since met with SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk and “provided letters of support” as SpaceX worked through launch site regulatory efforts with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Texas has been on the forefront of our nation’s space exploration efforts for decades, so it is fitting that SpaceX has chosen our state as they expand the frontiers of commercial space flight,” Perry said in the release.

The decision is a defeat for Florida, who had hoped to keep SpaceX’s commercial launches by developing a commercial launch site at a site named Shiloh just north of the Kennedy Space Center. An environmental assessment of the site is underway, although many local residents expressed opposition to the site at public hearings early this year.

According to Gil Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, construction on the new spaceport, which for the near-term will focus on commercial launches only, could begin soon. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they start turning dirt in the next few weeks,” Salinas told SpaceNews in an Aug. 6 phone interview.