SpaceX gets approval for Starship/Super Heavy factory in LA


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Capitalism in space: Having abandoned plans to build its Starship/Super Heavy rocket factory at the Port of Los Angeles in 2019, SpaceX has changed its mind and now gotten approval for the factory from the LA City Council.

First announced in March 2018 and abandoned for about a year beginning in March 2019, SpaceX has refreshed plans to build giant rocket parts in a California port, simplifying aspects of the original proposal and relying heavily on the fact that steel is far easier to handle than carbon fiber. Now, the company wants to refurbish and repurpose a number of old abandoned buildings already present at Port of LA Berth 240, effectively replicating a somewhat smaller version of the Starship production facilities SpaceX is in the middle of building in South Texas.

With Los Angeles Harbor Commission and City Council approvals both safely in hand, SpaceX’s Port of LA Starship is now officially a question of “when”, not “if”. When the concept first popped back into the public discourse late last month, it came alongside a report from CNBC reporter Michael Sheetz that SpaceX wanted to start building Starship parts as few as 90 days after it reapproached Port officials.

The speed in which SpaceX is moving here is very typical for the company. Bodes well for real test flights both this year and next.

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6 comments

  • Ivar Ivarson

    . . . and then after Musk and SpaceX have jumped through all the hoops and paid all the fees [bribes], some lefty judge will come along and retroactively void all the permits and require that the factory be torn down.

  • Ian C.

    Ivar, How do those [bribes] work? Honest question. And how do I recognize that they’re demanded from me? I’m a pretty innocent person and often don’t get hints (esp. across regions and cultures, they all have their unique gestures and idioms). Do they tell me “$4§” in LA or would that be too blunt?

  • Robert Pratt

    Well, one way it works is for key power players to have foundations to which large donations are made. That type of arrangement has become common.
    Why they would build anything in tax and regulatory heavy California is beyond my understanding.

  • pzatchok

    I just donated to a judges re-election campaign and get out of a ticket and a fine. I didn’t want the record on my drivers license.

    That judge was a few years later sent to jail for accepting bribes. I didn’t have anything to do with that.

  • Ian C.

    Robert, so that’s the more indirect way then (like Clinton Foundation) to secure political support. I thought Ivar meant a more direct way right at the office with upper-level administrators.

    Why would they build anything in CA, my speculation is proximity to Hawthorne (logistics and some of their engineers might prefer the LA harbor over the Texas desert) and there are often tax incentives for job-creating investments. I also learned that you need to choose your location in LA wisely as the individual cities that make LA seem to have different regulations; the port area in San Pedro could be bearable.

  • Edward

    Worse than building in California, they are doing it in a historic building, meaning that making changes to the building is very difficult, and the historic landmark commission they answer to will want them to figure out alternate ways of doing things.

    Then again, they are pretty good at doing things in different ways.

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