SpaceX is looking beyond Florida to locate a new rocket launch site.
The Space Coast is competing with Texas and Puerto Rico for the new launch pad, and it appears Texas has the edge.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk traveled to Texas last month to show off the cargo his Dragon capsule, which was brought back from the International Space Station.
He also met with Gov. Rick Perry to discuss a new launch pad.
SpaceX confirmed a site in Brownsville, at the southern tip of the Lone Star State, is the front-runner for a new SpaceX pad, specifically for commercial launches.
“If Elon is in Texas, he’s not only the big fish in the pond,” said Dale Ketcham. “He’s the only fish in that pond, whereas here he’s going to have to deal with a lot of bigger entities that are going to be able to dictate how and when he does his business.”
Ketcham is the director of a space program at the University of Central Florida, and said NASA, the FAA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida can mean more red tape for companies to go through.
But Space Florida said it’s in the best “business” interest for SpaceX to build at Cape Canaveral.
“We’re showing them a lean and effective supply chain,” said Frank DiBellow from Space Florida. “We’re showing them facilities that are truly cost effective, so that they don’t have to rebuild them. We’re showing them a more independent and cleaner method of processing their launches, so clearly we’re making it easier to work here in Florida.”
So far, launches of the Falcon 9 rocket have only taken place at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
That’s where Space Florida wants all launches to take place, ensuring that the space industry stays on the Space Coast.
Ketcham said if SpaceX locates the commercial pad here, NASA may pick up a few pointers on how to make cost effective spaceships.
“It’s very important that the government have a robust and vibrant commercial activity going on in immediate proximity to it because we want the government to learn what the commercial knows,” Ketcham said.
No matter where SpaceX decides to go, a company spokeswoman said they’ll always have a presence on the Cape.
All future NASA missions, including trips to the International Space Station, will launch from the Space Coast.
A final decision hasn’t been made, but the FAA is already conducting an environmental impact study on the Texas site, a big first step.