FAA Approves SpaceX Launch Complex in Texas

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved SpaceX’s plan to build a spaceport south of Brownsville, Texas, to launch Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and suborbital rockets.

In its record of decision, the FAA said that while the environmentally preferable alternative would be to reject the application and having nothing constructed in the beachfront area, the option is not in keeping with the agency’s purpose.

“The No Action Alternative is not the FAA’s Preferred Alternative because it is not consistent with the purpose and need for action, including the FAA’s statutory direction from Congress under the Commercial Space Launch Act to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launch and reentry activities by the private sector in order to strengthen and expand U.S. space transportation infrastructure,” the report states.

The decision includes a series of steps and actions the FAA said would mitigate the impacts on local residents, wildlife and historic sites.

“The FAA determined that SpaceX’s proposal, as modified to incorporate the avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures described below and in Chapter 6 of the Final EIS, constitutes the FAA’s Preferred Alternative,” the decision states. “Adoption of this alternative will result in the construction and operation of a private launch site that is consistent with the purpose and need for the Proposed Action, while at the same time avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the harm to the environment.”

SpaceX plans to construct its spaceport on 68.9 acres of land adjacent to the village of Boca Chica and south of Brownsville.  The site is located approximately 3 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The approval would allow SpaceX to launch up to 12 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets annually through 2025.

Within the 12 launch operations per year, SpaceX may elect to have permitted launches of smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicles from this proposed site. A reusable suborbital launch vehicle could consist of a Falcon 9 Stage 1 tank,” the statement reads.