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BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Members of Congress visited the STARGATE at UT-Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville on Friday, interested in the program and the group’s collaboration with SpaceX.

Congressman Filemon Vela said many people in his district – he represents Brownsville – were dubious that SpaceX would follow through on its plans to send rockets up to space from a launch pad on Boca Chica beach.

Dr. Rick Jenet, founder and director of STARGATE, responded that he was 100 percent sure SpaceX would be active in South Texas.

He later told the Rio Grande Guardian: “I am not a spokesperson for SpaceX but we can see the signs in the public statements that SpaceX are making. It is very clear that SpaceX has every intention of moving forward with the Boca Chica launch facility and in a recent conference in Silicon Valley, there was a presentation by SpaceX and you could see on the map a SpaceX facility, the Boca Chica space launch facility.”

STARGATE stands for Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Gigahertz Astrophysical Transient Emission and is a radio-frequency (RF) technology facility currently under development in south Texas.

Within minutes of the discussion between Jenet and the members of Congress, James Gleeson, as senior communications manager at SpaceX sent the Rio Grande Guardian a quote about its commitment to South Texas. The timing was purely coincidental.

“SpaceX is committed to building the world’s first commercial launch complex in South Texas. We have invested millions into the project, hired new full-time employees and contractors, conducted extensive engineering and geotechnical surveys, and performed soil surcharging and drilling in preparation for the build,” Gleeson said.

“Last year, shipped from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and mounted on concrete foundations, SpaceX installed two ground station antennas at our South Texas launch site to track Crew Dragon missions to the International Space Station and beyond beginning in 2018, as well as for tracking flights from South Texas.”

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Its mission is to revolutionize space technology with the ultimate goal of enabling humans to live on other planets.

SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of milestones. It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. The company also made history in May 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft delivered cargo to and from the International Space Station — a challenging feat previously accomplished only by governments. Since then Dragon has delivered cargo to and from the space station multiple times, providing regular cargo resupply missions for NASA.

In 2017, SpaceX successfully achieved the first re-flight of an orbital class rocket – a milestone on the road to full and rapid rocket reusability. Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are the only orbital class rockets flying today that are capable of reuse. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the outset to carry humans. Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Dragon’s first test flight with crew is expected to take place as early as 2018.

In 2017, SpaceX represented over 60 percent of all U.S. launches. Five of SpaceX’s 18 missions in 2017 utilized flight-proven Falcon 9 rockets. To date, SpaceX has successfully completed 51 launches – 48 with Falcon 9, one with Falcon Heavy and two with Falcon 1. Of those missions, SpaceX has successfully landed 23 first stage boosters – 12 at sea and 11 on land at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) and Landing Zone 2 (LZ-2). SpaceX has secured over 100 missions to its manifest, representing over $12 billion in contracts.

On February 6, 2018, Falcon Heavy successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two, with the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lbs.)—a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel. Falcon Heavy’s first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973 from LC-39A, delivered more payload to orbit.

For more information about the company, go to its website: www.spacex.com.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on SpaceX and STARGATE. Part Two will be posted later today.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Some of this info is a bit outdated. Crew Dragon will no longer be used for beyond earth orbit missions & Falcon Heavy will no longer be launching Crew Dragon because of saftey concerns at liftoff due to intense vibrations that could be hazardous to crew & the spacecraft & readying Crew Dragon for crewed deep space missions would be too complicated & very expensive. Falcon Heavy will be mostly used as a heavy satellite launcher & possibly help support NASA’s deep space gateway with BEO cargo resupply missions to the cislunar station. For now Crew Dragon will only be launched on Falcon 9 Block 5 to the ISS with a crew of 4 to 7 at a time. SpaceX will dedicate BFR to beyond earth orbit crew missions including lunar tourism mission 1 now set for sometime in the 2020’s.

    Nice to see progress is being made on the South Texas launch site. Will be allot better for SpaceX to have their own launch site so they wont have to deal with as much government medaling delaying everything & bureaucratic red tape. They’ll be able to launch more frequently & will be able to test just about anything they have planned with this & possibly other future private launch sites. The government way of spaceflight is getting old & expensive. Commercial spaceflight however is making real strides in reducing launch costs & increasing innovation. & Not just SpaceX. Blue Origin will have their New Glenn rocket ready by 2020 & like Falcon 9 Block 5 & BFR it will be reusable. Government spaceflight is the past commercial spaceflight is the future. The more the bigwigs realize that more can be accomplished & at lower cost.

    • It is funny how I just saw an interview of Elon Musk which was done the day before the Falcon Heavy launch where he was talking about the crewed Dragon capsule being used on a Falcon Heavy and talking about how amazing it was going to be seeing it go around the Moon. He did say in the interview that SpaceX was looking at the economic issues of getting the Falcon Heavy certified and that it depended upon some information he was looking at in terms of the progress of the BFR.

      It had nothing to do with the intense vibrations or any other hazards on the Falcon Heavy, just simply the economics of trying to go through the bureaucratic red tape needed for crew rating the Falcon Heavy.

      Yes, I saw the post launch press conference, and it is amazing that Elon Musk would change his mind so profoundly in less than 24 hours. He is certainly capable of doing that, but that would suggest the safety concerns aren’t the issue as there is no way Elon Musk could have seen any unanticipated vibrations data or other post-mortem technical analysis that soon after the launch that would have been dramatically different from what was anticipated immediately prior to launch and after multiple pad test fires.

      • I was mostly implying those concerns could come up durring the qualification process & could restrict Falcon Heavy to unmanned missions only. Although as much as I disagree with vice president Mike Pence on his political views I do support his decision to remove much of the red tape that slows down the progress of commercial spaceflight which will make certification go by faster & smoother as well as make things easier to get a launch license. So hopefully we’ll see much progress in the commercial spaceflight sector between now & the 2020’s.

      • Just found this statement made by Musk on Inverse regarding Falcon Heavy & Crew Dragon lunar missions;
        “What we decided internally is to focus our future development on BFR,” he told reporters, when asked how the Falcon Heavy launch could impact plans for the still anonymous pair of moon tourists. “Now we’ll see how the BFR development goes. If it ends up taking longer than expected then we’ll return top the idea of sending a Crew Dragon on Falcon Heavy to the moon and potentially doing other things with crew on Falcon Heavy. But right now it looks like BFR development is moving quickly and it will not be necessary to qualify Falcon Heavy for crewed space flight.”

        Pretty much sums up what they intend to do but the human spaceflight certification process could get in the way of those plans regardless. It’s a whole nother ball game for SpaceX.