SpaceX Counts Down to Tuesday Launch, Clears DragonFly Hurdle

Asiasat 8 Streaks Into the Sky, Credit: SpaceX

The news has been more than just lawsuits and fund-raising disputes for SpaceX this week.

As SpaceX enters the last week of August, the company is moving ahead on several key fronts, beginning with the announcement of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from the FAA for testing its DragonFly crew vehicle simulator at its McGregor, Tx. rocket development facility. The complete 142 page document is here. With the environmental hurdle out of the way, SpaceX is presumably clear to begin testing, and it will be interesting to see if any video comes out before NASA announces its decision in the Commercial Crew program sometime in the coming weeks.

AsiaSat 6 Undergoing Encapsulation Credit : AsiaSat

AsiaSat 6 Undergoing Encapsulation
Credit : AsiaSat

For those that haven’t noticed, SpaceX traditionally likes to release various test videos, generally of Grasshopper, in the days or even hours immediately ahead of an orbital launch.  At the moment the company is counting down to the launch of AsiaSat 6, currently scheduled to take place in a window between 12:50 and 4:05 AM EDT on Tuesday morning. (August 26th) If it follows the same pattern which marked the nearly identical AsiaSat 8 launch earlier this month, the Falcon 9 first stage will conduct a three engine re-ignition and  retro burn after stage separation, but there will be no landing attempt due to fuel limitations. A pre-launch test fire was scheduled to take place today.

Finally, once SpaceX is able to move some of its commercial launch operations to the recently confirmed Texas launch site at Boca Chica, it won’t have to worry about paying the local taxman for some time. According to newspaper reports, among the package of incentives which helped lure SpaceX to Texas was a 10 year exemption from Cameron County taxes, as well as $13 million dollars from the state Spaceport Development Trust Fund. It also received $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Though some in the media have found it impossible to resist the “billionaire gets millions in tax breaks” angle, the overall package appears to be surprisingly modest, as does the requirement that SpaceX employ at least 10 local residents. As for the decade long exemption, often a sore subject in any government courts business story, the simple fact is that no taxes are being paid if the business isn’t there in the first place.

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