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SpaceX Will Build Prototype Mars Rockets In Texas, Not California

The Starship Hopper prototype at the SpaceX Boca Chica launch facility.

From Texas Standard:

It's not often that the Los Angeles times covers news with a Texas slant, but this time, it was somewhat unavoidable.

Last week, the Times reported that Elon Musk's SpaceX was canceling plans to build its biggest rockets at the Port of Los Angeles, and shifting production to South Texas. The story got lots of play in Southern California where it was considered something of a blow to the region's dream of becoming the epicenter of the next wave of space exploration. And it was seen as a victory for Texas – one of California's economic rivals.

SpaceX already has a launch facility in Boca Chica, near Brownsville, and Steve Clark, a staff writer at the Brownsville Herald says the facility was initially expected to host 12 launches a year once completed. When Musk attended the site's groundbreaking in 2014, he hinted that Boca Chica could have an even higher-profile role in SpaceX plans.

"He did say something about the possibility that the first person to depart Earth for Mars could actually leave from Boca Chica," Clark says.

The Starship Hopper project – the one moved from Los Angeles to Texas – is the first prototype of SpaceX's Mars initiative. The prototype vehicle will be built at Boca Chica. But development of the overall Starship Mars project remains in California.

Clark says the economic impact of Starship Hopper on South Texas is unclear, but that traffic to the Boca Chica site has increased. He says tourists are posing with the rocket prototype.

Texas likely got the nod to build these rockets because it would have been logistically more complicated to build them in California and then transport them to the Texas launchpad.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

Kristen Cabrera is a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where she saw snow for the first time and walked a mile through a blizzard. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, she graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American (now UTRGV) and is a former KUT News intern. She has been working as a freelance audio producer, writer and podcaster. Email her:
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