Mystery Company Could Build New Spaceport on Texas Gulf Coast

Here’s an intriguing bit of news about the possible resurrection of the South Texas Spaceport project:

Negotiations to bring an aerospace company to Willacy County for commercial satellite launchings are intensifying, according to County Judge John F. Gonzales Jr.

He said he cannot yet release the name of the company. But he said, “They’ll be investing up to $50 million and hiring 100 to 200 full-time people, from low-end labor up to electrical engineers. Wages will be at least 30 percent above the local norm.”

The new rockets were tested in December, and the private company that did the testing recovered a reusable container similar to 1960s-type space capsules, the county judge said.

“I’m under a confidentiality agreement,” he said. He isn’t sure where the tests were conducted. But he said he thinks they were done at Cape Canaveral, Fla., or some other government installation.

“They’re the first private company to have successfully launched a low-altitude space flight and successfully recovered it,” he said of a reusable space capsule to deploy satellites.

The capsule would sit atop the rocket and open up to deploy the communications satellites and then fall back to earth to be recovered for reuse, he said.

This is a puzzling story. The only company known to have launched a recovered a space capsule in December was SpaceX with the Dragon. However, the description of a “reusable space capsule to deploy” communications satellites doesn’t fit Dragon, which is designed for cargo and crew delivery to low Earth orbit. SpaceX also has operations at Cape Canaveral and in the Marshall Islands and plans to fly out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The description probably better fits Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ mysterious start-up that conducts tests in another part of Texas. Whether Blue Origin has accomplished what Gonzales describes is uncertain given the secrecy surrounding the company’s operations.

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