South Texas is teeming with SpaceX employees in anticipation of the most significant launch event yet at Boca Chica, A.K.A. “Starbase” (SpaceX’s launch site in Brownsville, Texas). Initially anticipated for July, this launch will be the first orbital flight of the Starship prototype, employing SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster to achieve orbit.
The launch will take place from the recently built 440-foot orbital launch tower, with a 160-foot Starship attached to the top of the 230-foot Super Heavy booster. The Starship and Super Heavy, powered by three Raptor engines, will be used for payload transport, and ultimately for interplanetary travel.
SpaceX will use Starship for the first private lunar mission in 2023 and future missions to Mars.
Starship uses as outlined by SpaceX:
Starship is designed to deliver satellites further and at a lower marginal cost per launch than SpaceX’s current Falcon vehicles. With a payload compartment larger than any fairing currently in operation or development, Starship creates possibilities for new missions, including space telescopes even larger than the James Webb.
- Space Station
Starship can deliver both cargo and people to and from the International Space Station. Starship’s fairing provides significant capacity for in-space activities. The aft cargo containers can also host a variety of payloads.
- Moon Missions
Developing bases to support future space exploration requires the transport of large amounts of cargo to the Moon for research and human spaceflight development. Starship is designed to carry these building blocks.
- Interplanetary Transport
Building cities on Mars will require affordable delivery of significant quantities of cargo and people. The fully reusable Starship system uses in-space propellant transfer to achieve this and carry people on long-duration, interplanetary flights.
The upcoming Starship launch has brought an unexpected flux of SpaceX employees to the Brownsville area, and with it, a boom in the local economy. Hotel and restaurant owners are delighted. Fully booked hotels and packed restaurants during the weekends are not uncommon, even during the pandemic. However, seeing this during the week is a new experience for local businesses. Back in 2014, SpaceX began inquiring about the number of lodging accommodations at local establishments, and it looks as though they are now calling on those inquiries.
If a test launch for a prototype causes this much buzz, imagine what the Rio Grande Valley will look like when “Starbase” is fully operational. There is much promise for the hidden gem that is South Texas and its place as a hub for interplanetary travel and trade.