SpaceX has been ramping up its work towards the objective of reaching Mars. Already having sites in Texas and Florida, the company now includes the port of Los Angeles as well. Elon Musk’s space exploration company has just been given all the necessary approvals for the construction of a research and manufacturing area for deep-space ship at a vacant land of L.A. port.
Musk gave a talk earlier about SpaceX’s prototype spaceship, the Starship. The vessel, which is roomy enough to fit over 100 passengers, will be shot into orbit by a massive, reusable rocket which is also being built by the company. According to Musk, it could be twice as powerful as the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo astronauts.
Starship has multiple missions though; it is supposed to shuttle people on swift journeys to different cities on Earth, as well as carry them on long-haul flights to the Moon and Mars.
The Starship project represents a fully reusable space transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to the Earth’s orbit and beyond. It consists of a specially designed spacecraft and a ‘Super Heavy’ rocket. The entire structure of the colossal interplanetary rocket system will stand 387 feet (118 meters) tall.
The Los Angeles City Council granted a permit for the facility on Tuesday through a unanimous 12-0 vote. SpaceX representatives pitched the Starship project to the L.A. City Council members as a good match for the available vacant land at the port that can be used to fulfill the company’s need to enhance its spaceship and booster manufacturing capacity. The company also has an option to cancel the permit within 180 days.
In 2018, the company said it would build its Mars rocket and spaceship at the port and got approval from the Board of Harbor Commissioners and the L.A. City Council to lease that same piece of land on Terminal Island. A year later the people at SpaceX changed their mind and moved their operations to Texas, which is their current site. In a facility near Boca Chica Beach, South Texas, the company is currently building prototypes of Starship.
Last month, SpaceX CFO visited L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscanio and the Harbor Department about reviving the port plan. Buscanio said in an interview this month, “we are just fired up over this renewed interest. We are creating a silicon harbor where you are going to have ideas and see before our own eyes the build-out Starship.”
The company wanted a spot by the water because the spacecraft and its parts will be too large to transport by road and would need to be moved to the eventual launch site — which could be in Texas or Florida — by barge or ship.
Having secured the requisite permit, SpaceX can now begin leasing 12.5 acres (5 hectares) of property on Terminal Island for its Starship facility at an initial cost of $1.7 million per year. The contract allows the company an option to expand its facility to 19 acres, if required.
It should be noted though that SpaceX’s operations at the facility will remain confined to research, design and fabrication of aerospace components only and that the actual launch of space vehicles will take place elsewhere. The facility is expected to provide 130 new jobs.
However, the biggest hurdle involves the old buildings at the port, which are under regulatory apparatus designed to protect the historic buildings. SpaceX plans to refurbish these buildings which wouldn’t exactly be straightforward. Furthermore, a number of other miscellaneous specifics also need to be discussed with contractors and legal officials from the city and the port.
But ultimately, overcoming these few remaining challenges is only a matter of time and these don’t seem to be posing any substantial threat to SpaceX’s plans for now.
Elon Musk has expressed hope that the Starship will be ready for its first orbital test flight later in 2020.