SpaceX Will Build $85 Million Spaceport In America's Poorest City

It's official: Brownsville, Texas, will host the first commercial orbital launch site in the U.S.

Spaceflight company SpaceX is getting tantalizingly close to its dream of launching rockets from its own private spaceport: In July, the Federal Aviation Administration approved SpaceX's plans to build a launch facility in South Texas, and now the project has gotten the state-level go-ahead from Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Governor Perry announced Monday that the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Spaceport Trust Fund would offer $2.3 million and $13 million, respectively, toward construction of the spaceport, which would allow the California-based company to launch its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy spacecraft from its own facilities, rather than from Air Force property. "In addition to growing the aerospace industry in Texas, SpaceX's facility will provide myriad opportunities for STEM education in South Texas," Governor Perry said in a statement.

The chosen launch site is along the Texas-Mexico border, about 20 miles east of Brownsville, Texas. According to U.S. Census data, the Brownsville area is the poorest in the U.S., with 36% of its 415,557 residents living below the poverty line. In a November 2013 article, The Brownsville Herald reported that the proposed spaceport was a top priority of U.S. Representative Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, who said the facility should help the city break out of its cycle of unemployment.

By 2025, the spaceport is expected to employ 150 full-time and contract workers. Development of the 68.9-acre site will bring 300 jobs and $85 million in capital investment to the local economy, according to Governor Perry.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a statement:

SpaceX is excited to expand our work in Texas with the world's first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions. We appreciate the support of Gov. Perry and numerous other federal, state and local officials who have partnered with us to make this vision a reality. In addition to creating hundreds of high tech jobs for the Texas workforce, this site will inspire students, expand the supplier base and attract tourists to the south Texas area.

SpaceX still requires approvals from local agencies before it can begin construction, but this latest funding, which will be used to build necessary local infrastructure, is a major step forward.

[Image: Flickr user rblood]

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