While the idea of a South Texas commercial spaceport remains just that–an idea–one former astronaut believes that that could change in the near future.
Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former Navy Captain, astronaut, and commander of the International Space Station made a statement on Friday that alleged that SpaceX could continue progress to create a spaceport in Texas sooner rather than later.
“I’m no more privy to information about that than you are, but from what I read in the press etc., it seems like SpaceX is fairly intent on doing that [building a commercial spaceport]. Now, until the first stake is driven, I guess we won’t know for sure,” the retired NASA astronaut said. “But they certainly seem to be putting a fair amount of effort into getting approval, and I don’t see them doing it to that extent elsewhere. So my prediction would be yes.”
Lopez-Alegria may be so enthused about the potential SpaceX program after hearing of the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to permit Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies to send out rockets.
The once-Navy Captain spoke about this news as well. “That’s a pretty exciting development, and I think it’s representative of the move towards more commercial involvement in access to space.”
One particular area in South Texas called Cameron County could become a site for the SpaceX spaceport program. The organization is also looking into two other areas. When they choose a site, they would build a spaceport to send out the Falcon 9 as well as other space explorers and vehicles in the future.
SpaceX would then launch the Falcon 9 near the Gulf of Mexico. Cameron County makes sense as a potential site then, as it’s near the Gulf Coast towards Mexico. Brownsville Economic Development Council’s executive vice president Gilbert Salinas agrees about the spot. He stated that Cameron County is “being called the commercial Cape Canaveral.”
Another proponent for the use of Cameron County for SpaceX projects, Dr. George C. Nield with the Commercial Space Exploration program through the FAA also believes in positive change with this potential decision. He stated that it “would allow the greatest development and growth of the U.S. commercial space launch industry.”
The potential use of Cameron County as a launch for SpaceX vehicles also has the area’s judge, Carlos H. Cascos, on board. He believes that the decision could help “act as not only a job creation endeavor but an education endeavor as well” and that it could pump “millions of dollars into the local economy.”
Lopez-Alegria also agrees about the potential location. “You would really have a very large portion of the U.S. launch industrial complex sort of in your backyard when you think of it,” he said. “That’s a lot to be proud of for the area.”
SpaceX intends to eventually aim for a yearly total of 12 launches from 2014 until 2025 or later, including vehicles like the Falcon Heavy and the Falcon 9. Other vehicles would also be reusable so that they could have a purpose in future projects.
However, before making a final decision, SpaceX states that it needs to check a number of criteria for Cameron County.