As the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision looms on allowing SpaceX to launch rockets from Cameron County, Elon Musk’s space exploration firm has again purchased land at the proposed Boca Chica Beach site.
The most recent purchases were made from three private landowners.
In another transaction, SpaceX’s Director of Business Affairs Lauren Dreyer transferred ownership of one lot in Mars Crossing Subdivision to Dogleg Park LLC.
The purchases bring the total number of lots SpaceX owns here — through its companies Dogleg Park LLC and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC — to 110, for a total of almost 43 acres.
The purchases are in addition to 56.5 acres SpaceX has under lease.
Through Dogleg, SpaceX now controls approximately 100 acres in ownership and leaseholds combined.
The proposed development at Boca Chica Beach would be the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex.
FAA is expected to issue its decision early this month.
PROTECTING HISTORIC PROPERTIES
The additional land purchases came following finalization of a “programmatic agreement” between the FAA, the Texas State Historic Preservation Officer, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and SpaceX.
The agreement governs implementation of a program requiring continued assessment and resolution of SpaceX’s effects on historic properties.
It also contains stipulations on the process for minimizing and mitigating such problems should they arise.
FAA completed its final environmental assessment on May 28. The final signature affixed to the programmatic agreement came May 30, from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which had been invited to sign the agreement.
Required signatures from some agencies, along with the signatures of agencies that also took part in the agreement and were invited to sign it, had been critical. FAA had said it would not issue its decision until the agreement had been fully executed and signed by all parties.
There are 11 historic properties identified within the area of potential effects from launch operations.
FAA determined that the proposal would have indirect and secondary effects on the Palmito Ranch Battlefield, visually and from increased traffic; and direct and secondary effects on the 1846 floating bridge and Palmetto pilings from vibration and increased traffic.
The FAA also identified five tribes as having religious or cultural affiliation with the project area.
n Apache Tribe of Oklahoma.
n Comanche Nation of Oklahoma.
n Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.
n Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico.
n And the Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma.
The FAA invited the tribes to participate in consultation.
The agency received no responses regarding any known traditional cultural properties or areas of Native American concern.
Federal public records show that SpaceX, in collaboration with the FAA, is developing several plans for lighting management, facility design, vibration monitoring, hurricanes, security, response to emergencies, and construction, operation and spill pollution.
In addition, an unanticipated discoveries plan will be prepared to outline the processes to be followed in the event previously unknown cultural resources or human remains are discovered during construction or operation of the project.
DRAWING TO A CLOSE
The FAA’s decision on SpaceX’s request for licenses is expected soon, concluding a 30-day period that began in early June. The 30 days are meant to allow federal agencies to have final consultations to resolve any outstanding issues, if necessary.
Besides finalizing plans, and after the FAA issues its decision, the next steps would include processing SpaceX’s application for the permits, and the firm securing all the other permits required from other agencies.
Because SpaceX would be the exclusive user of the site, a launch site operator license would not be required.
FAA has said the licenses that SpaceX could apply for are:
n The launch-specific license to authorize it to conduct one or more launches.
n A launch operator license to authorize it to conduct launches from the launch site.
n And an experimental permit that would authorize for SpaceX the launch and reentry of a reusable suborbital rocket.