SpaceX will file an application with the U.S. government to build a commercial spaceport near Brownsville, Texas.
The decision follows a two-year assessment by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial spaceflight in the United States, that Boca Chica Beach could support up to 12 Falcon rocket launches a year without major environmental impact.
Falcon rockets launched from Boca Chica Beach would head east over the Gulf of Mexico between the Florida Keys and Cuba on their way to orbit.
Texas is wooing SpaceX with more than $15 million in economic incentives. The privately owned firm, officially known as Space Exploration Technologies, wants a fourth launch site to handle its growing commercial satellite launch business.
SpaceX, which is owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, currently flies from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and has flown once from a new launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It also has an agreement with NASA to take over one of the space shuttle’s launch pads at Kennedy Space Center, located just north of the Cape Canaveral military base.
With a backlog of nearly 40 missions for its Falcon 9 and planned Falcon Heavy rockets, SpaceX has been scouting for a launch site where commercial customers can take precedence over military and NASA missions.
Building a new launch complex in Texas will cost SpaceX between $80 million and $100 million, said Gil Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council.
SpaceX considered sites in Florida, Puerto Rico and other locations in Texas, but none “sufficiently met SpaceX’s criteria,” the FAA wrote in its “Record of Decision” which was released last month.
The project still requires approval of local agencies and federal permits.
“SpaceX is excited to expand our work in Texas with the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions,” Musk said in a statement.