Sunday, April 7, 2013

States Compete for Commercial Space Launch Facilities

Falcon 9 CRS-2 launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral on March 1. The company is considering several sites, including Texas, Florida, and Georgia, to host a commercial launch site (credit: NASA/KSC)

The great state space race


It’s not uncommon for states to compete against one another to attract a company’s newest factory or offices, or to lure a company to move from one state to another. Tax breaks, sweetheart deals on land or buildings, or other incentives are all standard tools of the trade to win factories, distribution centers, and office complexes. Local and state agencies work every day to attract various businesses, willing to absorb costs in the near term for promised long-term economic benefits.

“Right now, Texas is arguably the leading candidate,” Musk said last month. “If things go as expected, it’s likely that we’ll have a launch site in Texas.”

It’s a sign of the maturation of the commercial space industry, though, that cities and states are making more of an effort to attract such companies. There’s been some activity in the last year, as XCOR Aerospace agreed on a deal to move its headquarters to Midland, Texas (see “Texas warms to NewSpace”, The Space Review, July 16, 2012) while signing a separate deal to later establish in Florida a manufacturing and operations base. Florida also lured a smaller suborbital vehicle company, Rocket Crafters, to set up operations in Titusville. But even bigger deals—and possibly fiercer competition—are on the horizon.

“Texas is probably our leading candidate”


Today, the biggest prize states are competing for in the commercial space field is a new launch site for SpaceX. The company, which launches today from Cape Canaveral and will inaugurate a new launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in June, has indicated for a couple years that it’s seeking to establish a third launch site that would be used predominantly, if not exclusively, for commercial missions, and is looking beyond the usual suspects to find a site.

The leading contender for SpaceX’s launch site appears to be a site on the Gulf of Mexico coast in Texas, near Brownsville.

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Source: The Space Review.

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Commercial Spaceport Competition Heats-Up (2012 Sept 23):

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