Space Exploration Technologies wants to build a new spaceport in Cameron County, Texas.
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has just filed a notice of intent to begin preparation of an environmental impact statement and hold public hearings on the project. The NOI can be found here.
SpaceX proposes to “launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch vehicles from a private site located in Cameron County, Texas.” If the project is approved, SpaceX will build a vertical launch area and a control center area to support up to 12 commercial launches per year. Up to two launches each year would be Falcon Heavy. The remainder would be Falcon 9 and “a variety of smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicles.”
The proposed vertical launch area site is on undeveloped land directly adjacent to the eastern end of Texas State Highway 4 (Boca Chica Boulevard) and three miles north of the Mexican border. The site is five miles south of Port Isabel and South Padre Island. New facilities to be built at the launch site include a vehicle-integration hangar, launch pad and stand with flame trench, propellant storage and handling facilities, a workshop and office area, and a warehouse for parts storage.
The control center area would be located inland, to the west of the launch area, It would include a control building and a payload processing center. It might also include a launch-vehicle preparation hangar and satellite fuels storage. All facilities would be constructed on land owned or leased by SpaceX.
Launches from Cameron County would include satellites, experimental payloads, and possibly Dragon capsules. All launches would carry “commercial” payloads. It is not stated whether this would include NASA commercial crew and cargo missions.
Cameron County is located at the extreme southern tip of Texas. It is slightly south of Cape Canaveral. This location makes Cameron County a good choice for launches to equatorial orbit, while still remaining within the continental US which simplifies logistics as well as International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) problems.
South Padre Island is a popular tourist destination. It may be a good place to watch future launches.
Based on the FAA’s description, the launch site would be somewhere in the area near Brazos Island State Park and the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. It is reasonable to assume those areas would be closed for launches, however.