With a bustling launch manifest, California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is looking for more launch sites, including possibly Brownsville, Texas.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will prepare an environmental impact study on the proposed launch complex, a notice in Tuesday’s Federal Register shows. The FAA plans to present the proposal and hold a hearing in Brownsville next month.
SpaceX, which is preparing for an April 30 test flight to the International Space Station, is thinking about a complex at Brownsville for launches of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, as well as for suborbital missions.
Brownsville is located about 350 miles south of Austin on western side of the Gulf of Mexico.
SpaceX, which is owned and run by internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, currently launches from a refurbished launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It is developing another launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has a facility for launching its smaller Falcon 1 rockets from Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll.
“SpaceX is considering multiple potential locations around the country for a new launch pad for commercial payloads. The Brownsville area is one of the possibilities,” SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham wrote in an email.
The other contenders are Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Florida, she added.
The company is one of two hired by NASA to deliver cargo to the space station. It also plans to upgrade the Dragon capsule to fly astronauts as well.
Rockets launched from the proposed Brownsville site would fly east over the Gulf of Mexico.
“Operations would consist of up to 12 launches per year with a maximum of two Falcon Heavy launches,” the FAA notice said. “All Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches would be expected to have commercial payloads, including satellites or experimental payloads. In addition to standard payloads, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy may also carry a capsule, such as the SpaceX Dragon capsule.”
Image: SpaceX’s second Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on Dec. 8. 2010, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Next launch is scheduled for April 30. Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX