Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Why did SpaceX choose Boca Chica as a test site?

The SpaceX South Texas Launch Site is a spaceport under construction in Boca Chica, TX for SpaceX's use. The main goal of this launch site is to provide SpaceX its own private place to plan, develop, test, and launch rockets. But this begs the question, Why Boca Chica? 

The box is where the site is located
I'm sure few people have heard of Boca Chica outside of Texas, so many people are wondering why choose that spot. There are a myriad of reasons, but the main reasons are as follows: SpaceX will need less propellant to launch from Boca Chica compared to KSC, it is cheaper in the long run for them to develop their own property rather than rent from KSC or Vandenberg, the coastal site is necessary for transport of the BFR rocket, and the Texas government gave financial and regulatory incentives to build there. 

Let's break down these four main points. Point one is a very practical point. Due to orbital mechanics that I do not understand, it is more fuel efficient to launch as close to the equator as you can. Boca Chica is further south than either Kennedy Space Center launch pads and Vandenberg Air Force base in California, so this is just a logical move by SpaceX to save money.

Point two is also very logical, and SpaceX is simply planning for their future with this one. SpaceX bought the land to begin to create their own KSC or VAF per say. SpaceX wants to compete and be on the space launch scene for many years to come, and having their own site to launch and develop rockets is definitely a priority. Currently, SpaceX pays tens of millions of dollars just to use launch pads from both of these bases. While the building of Boca Chica is still in the early stages, the vision is to create their own self-sufficient place to launch vehicles. This will make them independent of NASA and the Air Force and allow SpaceX the freedom to do what they please.

Artist rendering of BFR
The third point is one that is very exciting. The BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, is a fully reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle that is currently being developed by SpaceX. It will be assembled in Southern California and then shipped by barge through the Panama Canal to the launch site. Boca Chica is right on the coast, allowing for easy extraction of the vehicle from the barge. Boca Chica is also much close to SoCal than KSC is, which is where the BFR would most likely launch from in the absence of Boca Chica. Boca Chica gives SpaceX great accessibility. 

The fourth point is that the Texas government offered SpaceX breaks on various regulations and taxes to incentivize SpaceX to build there. Per www.dallasnews.com/business/business/2014/08/04/billionaire-musk-chooses-south-texas-site-for-spacex-launchpad, SpaceX has received 15.3 million dollars in incentives from various Texas funds to help support the building of infrastructure. The site is supposed to bring over 300 jobs and 85 million in capital gains, so for Texas, the return on investment looks high. I could not find much more info about these nebulous incentives and tax cuts, but by the looks of it the government did have some role in persuading Musk to build there.

This was just a short post to regroup after that last mammoth post. Man, I'm still recovering. But I personally had this question myself, so I figured a lot of you guys had the question too. I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for taking the time to read it :).

  

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