On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry confirmed what had neen widely speculated for weeks, if not months: SpaceX would 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 CEO Elon Musk and “provided letters of support” as SpaceX worked through launch site regulatory efforts with the FAA.
“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.
A day after Perry’s announcement, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) tried to put a positive spin on the situation. “I think you’re going to see a lot of commercial activity that is going to be there and on the Kennedy Space Center,” Nelson told Florida Today in an interview in the senator’s Orlando office. “So I think we have a robust future.”
Nelson also raised questions about the viability of the Texas site, noting that launches from there will have to pass through a narrow keyhole downrange, between Florida and Cuba, restricting the range of orbits those launches can meet. (Dogleg maneuvers can enable additional orbits, although at a cost in terms of performance.) “How many launches will be financially viable for them to do that from there?” he said. “I think that’s a story still to be told.”