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SpaceX goes full speed ahead on construction of Starship launchpad in Florida

Capitalism in space: Faced with regulatory delays caused by the Biden administration that are preventing further Starship launches from Boca Chica, SpaceX has accelerated construction of a new Starship launchpad at its facility in Florida.

Compared to SpaceX’s Starbase tower assembly [in Boca Chica], Florida Starship work appears to be proceeding at a similar pace. SpaceX began assembling the fourth Florida tower section about 30 days after starting the first, while Starbase took about 25 days to reach the same point. However, SpaceX does appear to be taking a slightly different approach for Pad 39A. On top of tower section assembly, SpaceX is constructing an extra four sets of the small concrete foundations and steel frames each tower section is assembled on, implying that Starship’s Florida launch tower could be almost entirely prefabricated before SpaceX begins to combine those sections.

Meanwhile, Boca Chica remains blocked. While the FAA says it will issue approval of its environment reassessment by the end of this month, SpaceX would be foolish to believe this. It has become very clear that the Biden administration has so far allowed the federal bureaucracy free rein to obstruct SpaceX. For the company to think things will suddenly change now is to be living a fantasy. It must move forward to satisfy its investors.

Worsening the situation in Texas was the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the permit process on a request by SpaceX to expand its Boca Chica facility. It appears SpaceX failed to provide the Corps some required information, possibility because the company sees no reason now to complete this expansion if the Biden administration is going to ban Starship launches from Texas.

Faced with this political situation, Texas governor Greg Abbott yesterday claimed he is fighting the stonewalling by the Biden administration, but provide no specifics:

“What I am going to do if Biden interferes with the ability of SpaceX to launch from Boca Chica; I am going to be working every step of the way to make sure that they are going to be able to launch from Boca Chica. We heard the vision from Mr. Patel himself about what they are working on and our job is to make sure they are able to achieve their vision. And I have worked with Elon Musk very closely with regard to Tesla and the Giga factory in Austin, Texas. And we will be working with him very closely, every step of the way in Boca Chica for the future of SpaceX. We want that future and that vision to come from Boca Chica, from Brownsville, Texas.”

Allow me to translate this political blather into plain English: “I can’t or won’t do anything, but I am now going to make a superficial claim of action so my Texas constituents won’t get angry at me.”

It appears more and more that the first orbital test flight of Starship will take place in Florida, not Texas. And if so, it will be delayed for at least another six months because of this government interference.

Conscious Choice cover

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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


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All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


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  • Skunk Bucket

    The cynical side of me says that this is going to be just like Dragon vs. Starliner. NASA and/or other bureaucratic government agencies would vastly prefer that their cronies over at Boeing launch first so that upstart SpaceX doesn’t make them look bad. Unless the Senate Launch System is delayed by years (still not out of the realm of possibility) they’ll do whatever they have to do to delay the first orbital launch of Starship until after SLS flies.

  • Edward

    I wouldn’t be surprised if construction at Kennedy becomes 24/7, if it hasn’t already. They may have to wait for concrete to cure, however.

  • John

    Will the administration be satisfied that they took a space port away from Texas? I don’t think so. They can find the red tape.

    Maybe Mr. Musk should rethink his position on free speech. Vee have ways to convince people.

  • Jack O'Leary

    The Army Corps of Engineers decision is very likely political and not due to “insufficient information”. My job is permitting and I deal with them sometimes. In the past, they were the one agency that would reliably process a permit application without much fuss. My most recent application, the first since Biden became president, is being held up. The statements from the Corps indicate that what is being proposed would be allowed for a public project, but not for the private developer who is my client. They are quite explicit about this. The proposed resolution is to force my client into some government-run mitigation that involves substantial fees not otherwise needed. Not explicit but understood in the consulting community is that they are trying to inflict as much pain as possible on private businesses who apply.

    From insiders in several Federal agencies, and from experience, the direction they are given from Republican administrations is to assist businesses comply with regulations and meet agency goals. During Democratic administrations the direction is to be as tough as possible on business, slow walk and fine them where possible.

  • Milt

    Robert writes, “It appears more and more that the first orbital test flight of Starship will take place in Florida, not Texas. And if so, it will be delayed for at least another six months because of this government interference.”

    Six months. Can you imagine how long it would take if NASA were forced to move the launch site for the SLS? Five years? A decade?

    Boys and girls (I don’t work for Disney so I can say this), it is becoming pretty obvious that Mr. Musk actually “wants” to create a successful and commercially viable manned space program, while The Powers That Be in Washington want no such thing. Neither, apparently, does Governor Abbott of Texas. Too bad for our country; too bad for Texas.

  • Mike Puckett

    Ok Milt, so what exactly is Gov. Abbot supposed to do? Send in the Texas National Guard to secure the site?

    He has only so many levers to pull here.

  • Milt

    Mike has a point. There is probably not a whole lot more that Governor Abbott can do at this juncture, and he has his hands full on the border*. My perspective, I guess, is that things have gone so far in our current cultural civil war that Governor Abbott and the people of Texas would be better served if he would emulate Florida’s Governor DeSantis a bit more and dispense with all of the residual nicey-nicey diplomat-speak about trying to “work with” the Jacobins who have taken over Washington.

    They do not need to be “worked with;” they need to be called out and opposed using all legal and constitutional means. And, if this opposition can be served with a bit of humor and savior faire, well, so much the better. Standing up to bullies, etc. And articulating critical principles in language that the public and other elected officials can clearly understand.

    Again, it is hard to fault the Governor too much. He has done a lot, and he deserves credit for the good things that he has done. I just wish — along the lines of the story about President Lincoln wanting to share whatever spirits that General Grant was partaking of with his other generals — that DeSantis would send a case of his special political “Gatoraid” to Governor Abbott.

    *Where the National Guard would certainly serve a useful purpose.

  • Edward

    Mike Puckett noted: “He has only so many levers to pull here.

    But he does have levers to pull. He is the governor of a large state, and that comes with a lot of power and pull. He also has a voice, which holds a lot of power, just as Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has — and has used.

    On the other hand, we can use this situation to see how the Seventeenth Amendment was such a bad idea. Now that senators are elected by the people of each state, the state itself has lost a lot of power and pull with the federal (now national) government. The Constitution was originally set up so that each state legislature chose its own senators, and this made the senators beholden to the state itself. Now, senators are beholden to their special-interest campaign-contributors, not the state and not the voters. This makes the Senate little better than the House of Representatives.

    Every state of the union has lost its voice in Washington DC. This is why we had unfunded mandates on state budgets, a few decades ago. It took a lot of effort to correct this, because the senate was not on the side of the states (and no one else, either). Even today, no one is there to defend the Tenth Amendment and states’s rights.

    Without the Seventeenth Amendment, Abbot would have even more levers to pull and more power to pull them.

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