Texas Passes SpaceX Launch Law

One Small Step

One Small Step

Source : Brownsville Herald

With the stroke of a pen on Friday,  Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law legislation allowing for the temporary closure of part  of Boca Chica beach during SpaceX launch windows.  The legislation, House Bill 2623, allows  for the beach to be closed except for holiday and weekends during the summer.  An exception is made in the event a launch scrub results in a delay running over into either exclusion, and SpaceX can show that it would suffer “significant adverse business consequences.” as a result.

With the bill now signed into law, and an environmental review in the rearview mirror as well, the Lone Star State would appear to stretching its lead over Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico as the home for the SpaceX’s planned commercial launch facility.  It also cannot hurt that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has emerged as a clear supporter of the commercial space industry, a marked change from the position taken by his predecessor, the now retired Kay Bailey Hutchison whose devotion to the Space Launch System was often  expressed in derisive opposition to commercial space.  With Cruz now the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation  subcommittee on Science and Space, (which also includes Florida Senator Marco Rubio) which has NASA oversight,  Texas  may be aligning behind NewSpace in a major way.

Don’t count Florida out entirely however. Now that NASA has put Pad 39A up for lease at the Kennedy Space Center, it is quite possible that SpaceX could hedge its bets and decide to utilize that infrastructure for early East coast Falcon Heavy launches rather than SLC-40 which is only a few miles away. It seems a safe assumption that the Air Force would not be all that enthusiastic about DoD flights out of a commercial space center like that which SpaceX hopes to build, whereas the KSC infrastructure is both set up to handle national security payloads, and did so on early Shuttle flights. If SpaceX does go that route, the real reason could be not the Falcon Heavy, but what is potentially coming behind it, a much larger Super Heavy Lift.

Though only speculative, and years away in any event, the barge canal and turning basin, which have served the Saturn V and Shuttle programs  offer a key piece of infrastructure if SpaceX ultimately decides to build a mega rocket, but for whatever reason does not want to build it on site, as would likely be the case in Texas.   As such a Falcon Heavy bid for Pad 39A could be used as a holding action for that eventuality.

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14 Comments on "Texas Passes SpaceX Launch Law"

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  1. Gary Warburton says:

    I think with all the things SpaceX has going on, it is a little too early to think about Mega rockets. What with a new Texas Spaceport coming on line at a lower latitude than the one in Florida, a new Heavy launcher coming into existance next year and the additional testing of first stage reusability and its first attempt to make it work next year, SpaceX has its hands full for the forseeable future. After that there is the reusability of the second stage. What I`m looking forward to is the reaction of the established companies to these new developments. Will they giveup and go bankrupt or attempt to develop their own reusability?

  2. alex wilson says:

    Mr. Warburton, you presuppose that SpaceX’s work on a reusable launcher is going to succeed. Given that they are no where near testing a real, operational version of a reusable first stage, and the fact that past reusable experiments have failed, isn’t that a huge supposition?

    • Dick Eagleson says:

      “Nowhere near” for certain rather restrictive values of “near” perhaps. SpaceX has publicly announced their first attempt at a controlled descent and hover before splashdown of the new v1.1 F9 first stage will occur during the CASSIOPE mission currently scheduled to launch from Vandenberg AFB on July 9. Succeed or fail, they intend to make additional such tests as part of the other F9 launches (at least four) scheduled during the remainder of this year. They have also publicly shown photos of one of a set of four deployable landing legs for the v1.1 first stage. They are also shortly to proceed with high-altitude tests of their Grasshopper vehicle at Spaceport America near Las Cruces, NM. Simultaneously working the required flight envelope from the ground up with Grasshopper and from MECO on down with real stages during actual launches, SpaceX may well have the entire return-to-launch-site trajectory tested by year’s end. They might even have succeeded in return a v1.1 F9 first stage to Canaveral by then. If not, next year will afford even more test opportunities. This is going to happen, folks. It’s strictly a question of when, not if.

      • alex wilson says:

        Hate to tell you, but I wasn’t even talking about any of the ‘planned’ SpaceX tests, I was talking about past work like DC-X, which never progressed beyond some limited tests, and the few other test programs that have taken place. As to the claim that “This is going to happen”, when it happens, it will. Until then, it’s still ‘might be’ at best.

      • Dick Eagleson says:

        DC-X was the precursor to what was to be an SSTO vehicle. Its “failure” was more political than technical. But Falcon 9R is not SSTO, it’s a staged system. So DC-X’s history, however one sees it, doesn’t have much to say about the workability or not of SpaceX’s approach.

        As for the ‘planned’ nature of SpaceX’s reusable design, what is your point, exactly? Are you under the impression, for some reason, that SpaceX is not actually planning to do reusability tests?

        I’ll make a little prediction here. SpaceX will successfully achieve a return-to-launch-site recovery of at least one F9R first stage by June 1, 2014.

  3. Arnold Theisen says:

    alex, SpaceX will probably fail because others have not succeeded.
    “(I)sn’t that a huge supposition?” Hey, even the “smart” financial investment firms use the legal caveat “Past performance does not guaranty future results.” Though the polarity of the intent is reversed, the sentiment is the same. Bad past performance does not guaranty bad future results.

  4. mjv.theory says:

    I have to side with Dick on this. Remember, max dynamic pressure is 90 seconds into ascent and at less than mach2. As long as the engines re-ignite reliably, then the dynamic pressures of a power assisted return to launch pad should not present a problem. The remaining difficulties revolve around high altitude aerodynamics and software and hardware refining to maintain descent flight control. In short, if F9R has the engine efficiency and fuel capacity to return, then surely it is only a matter of time before SpaceX succeeds in returning a first stage in tact. From this perspective, returning the first stage is a relatively “straightforward” task, assuming the will and engineering talent is available. It seems as though all previous approaches to reusability have centred on SSTO, which naturally presents a slightly different set of problems. Of course, SpaceX will encounters many of those issues when trying to recover the second stage, which seems to me to be a more difficult proposition.

  5. mjv.theory says:

    Arnold , Alex – (as per my previous post,) the method of reusability being employed by SpaceX has not succeeded before, largely because it has not been tried before. DeltaClipper was not an attempt to engineer two separate returnable stages. The $1.46billion per mission shuttle returned the upper stage, but there has been no reported significant flight efforts to return a first booster stage (and no, the shuttle solid boosters do not count; recovered for refit is not the same as returned in tact – which also applies to the shuttle itself). SSTO is based on a false, scifi and aircraft inspired, premise of what an elegant reusable system should entail. SpaceX’s genius is in admitting acceptance of the engineering problem rather than attempting to enforce some fanciful ideal taken from another context. REL’s Sabre engines might enable Skylon, but they would be far better used as the engines for a reused first stage. A Sabre powered first stage would enable a huge increase in payload to orbit, or, reduce the size of the first stage, since LOX is by far the most massive element of the launch vehicle.

  6. Gary Warburton says:

    Mr. Musk has already said he expects to have failures. That is the only attitude you should have when you try to do something new. That was not the attitude of the people doing DCX. At the first failure they quit. A leg buckled during a landing attempt. As it turns out that failure was not repeated in Grasshopper`s first flight as it was equiped .with shock absorbing legs. The new 1D engine lets Grasshopper have perfect throttling allowing it to land smoothly without a bump or a wobble. I was surprised when Elon announced that he was going to try to land the first stage of his Cassieope mission on July 9 on the surface of the ocean and that he would try to that with every mission there after and would attempt a landing on land either before the end of the year or the beginng of the next. You never succeed at anything by only trying it once.

    • Dick Eagleson says:

      Quite so. There seem to be quite a few people out there who have deeply imbibed the “all progress in space can only come from NASA” Kool-Aid. To this mindset, SpaceX is just a monkey-copy parasite, leeching off of NASA’s past glories. So obviously any talk that SpaceX can do something new that NASA never tried is ludicrous on its face. “I told Wilbur and I told Orville and now I’m telling you – that thing’ll never fly!” Come back here in a year and tell me all about what SpaceX can’t possibly do!

  7. Arnold Theisen says:

    Nothing in life or engineering is 100% certain. Engineers play the odds, or rather they do the numbers and give it their best guess (as fictional Spock would say when it was forced upon him). From what I’ve seen so far, I’d say the odds are in favor of SpaceX’s success. Besides, I’m old and tired of pessimism. Cheers! 🙂

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