Starhopper Aborts Hop Attempt

SpaceX’s Starhopper test vehicle aborted its first attempt at an untethered hop on Wednesday at the company’s test site at Boca Chica beach in Texas.

The company’s webcast showed a cloud of smoke rising from the vehicle indicating the engine had shut down right after ignition. Controllers atttempted to recycle the hop attempt, but ultimately aborted for the day.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the abort occurred because of abnormally high amount of pressure in engine’s combustion chamber.

Video: SpaceX Starhopper Fires Raptor Engine in Explosive Display

The test vehicle seemed to survive just fine. It looked worse than it was.

Starship Hopper Testing Set for Wednesday at Earliest

The Monitor reports on SpaceX’s plans to test its Starship Hopper this week at Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas:

Cameron County has posted public notice that it will close Highway 4 to Boca Chica Beach for space flight activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

In the alternative, the public notice said Highway 4 to Boca Chica Beach will be closed for the same time duration on either Thursday or Friday.











Musk Tweets About Hopper, Flight Tests & Boca Chica Plans











SpaceX Decides to Build Starship in Texas; R&D to Stay in California

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has decided it would be easier to build its giant Starship spacecraft in Texas rather than at the Port of Los Angeles in California as originally planned, Alan Boyle reports.

SpaceX says it’ll build and test the prototypes for its next-generation Starship space cruiser and Super Heavy booster in South Texas, despite a deal it struck to build a rocket factory at the Port of Los Angeles.

At least by some accounts, the turnabout is a setback to Los Angeles’ efforts to build a high-tech “Silicon Harbor” at the port, with SpaceX’s planned 18-acre site on Terminal Island as the centerpiece. The Los Angeles City Council approved a 20-year lease agreement with billionaire CEO Elon Musk’s company in May.

[….]

“We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport,” Musk explained today in a tweet.

However, Musk also said development work for Starship and its methane-fueled Raptor engines would continue to be done at SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters. He said any confusion about SpaceX’s plans was due to “our miscommunication.”

SpaceX is building a launch site at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville. It is assembling a subscale Starship hopper to conduct atmospheric tests later this year.











Border Patrol, Homeland Security Want Access to SpaceX’s Boca Chica Facility

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

The Brownsville Herald reports on a request by federal law enforcement for access to SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch complex, which lies just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

SpaceX confirmed Wednesday that officials with the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have requested access to the property where rockets could one day launch to Mars.

“The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently requested SpaceX permit access to our South Texas Launch site to conduct a site survey,” SpaceX Spokesman James Gleeson said in a statement. “At this time, SpaceX is evaluating the request and is in communication with DHS to further understand their plans.”

The development comes as SpaceX continues to work on its launch pad and while the company owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who recently visited the South Texas Launch site, is building a prototype of the Starship spacecraft that may one day take people to Mars.

The only announcement the federal government has made about building more border wall infrastructure in Cameron County is that it will fill in 11 gaps in the in existing wall.











Giant Pile of Dirt Marks SpaceX’s Texas Launch Site

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)
Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

Steve Clark of The Brownsville Herald reports that SpaceX’s biggest challenge at its future launch site in Texas is stabilizing the soil.

The purpose is to raise and stabilize the area before actual construction of the launch pad and associated buildings begins. The technical term is “soil surcharging.”

When the final load is delivered, 310,000 cubic yards of soil will have been brought in, enough to cover a football field 13 stories high, according to the Hawthorne, California-based aerospace company.

Launch pads require very stable soil, since rockets are very heavy and hangar foundations must not crack. Surcharging is a much more cost-effective solution than, say, driving steel beams or pouring 200-foot concrete pillars, though it does take longer.

Once the mountain of dirt is in place it will be graded, then allowed to settle for a period time. After that, it’s expected actual construction of the launch pad will move quickly, according to the company. Until then, a steady parade of dump trucks rumbles to and from the site as the artificial plateau grows taller.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk had hoped to launch the first Falcon 9 from the site near the Mexican border in 2016. That date has now slipped to 2018.











About $30 Million in Incentives for SpaceX’s Texas Launch Facility

Rendering of SpaceX's Boca Chica launch complex. (Credit: SpaceX)
Rendering of SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch complex. (Credit: SpaceX)

The Valley Morning Star estimates that financial incentives for SpaceX’s spaceport in Texas stand at “about $30 million.” The funding includes:

The McAllen City Commission, as recommended by the McAllen Economic Development Corp., pitched in with $500,000 and the Point Isabel ISD Board of Trustees approved an agreement in exchange for an eight-year limitation on the taxable property value for that portion of the taxes for maintenance and operations, not for debt service.

The Harlingen City Commission, as recommended by the Harlingen Economic Development Corp., provided $450,000; the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. provided $5 million; Cameron County provided a tax abatement with a value up to $1.4 million; the state is providing $15.3 million; the Cameron County Space Port Development Corp. submitted an application for $1 million from the Texas Department of Agriculture and another $9 million was pitched to advance STARGATE, including $4.4 million from the state, $4.6 million from the University of Texas System, and $500,000 from GBIC.

STARGATE, which would be the first research center for the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, will be a cooperative effort to develop and support phased-array technology for satellite and space vehicle communication.

Read the full story.