Elon Musk's Futuristic Spaceport Is Coming to Texas
This week the Federal Aviation Administration signed off on SpaceX’s plan to build a spaceport in South Texas. Everyone should be excited about this, because Musk wants to construct the kind of spaceport people are used to seeing in sci-fi movies and take launch technology up a notch.
The goal, more or less, will be to create an automated station where machines fuel the rocket, stand it up, and send it off. If all goes according to plan, the spaceport technology would result in a drastic reduction in the time needed to go from launch to launch.
SpaceX has been staging its launches at NASA and military sites in Florida and California. It recently secured sole access to launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During a recent interview, Musk told me that SpaceX felt it could tweak 39A to suit a lot of its needs. The company plans to add automated equipment for tracking its rockets and monitoring safety, which should speed up the launch process.
The government currently needs about a day or two to switch its systems over from tracking a rocket from another company to one from SpaceX. “We need to install dedicated equipment for us that has an autonomous safety system that doesn’t depend on someone pushing a button to do the tracking,” Musk says. “You install a set of redundant avionics on the rocket that monitor its position, and if it flies outside of an agreed-upon path, it initiates a destruct sequence.”
The new site in Texas, though, would give SpaceX a clean slate to put its unique spin on a spaceport. Knowing Musk, I believe this would mean an ultrafuturistic design coupled with loads of automation. The space industry could certainly benefit from this type of modernization, since it’s still relying, in most cases, on decades-old sites that were mainly built to send up missiles.