Early this year, SpaceX submitted a request with the Port of Los Angeles (L.A.) to build new facility on about 12.4 acres at the former Southwest Marine site at Terminal Island, California. SpaceX's representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that they selected the location because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship-rocket duo that will one day take astronauts to the moon and Mars. The lease was valued at around $1.7 million per year and that price was set to increase over time based on the consumer price index over a full 20-year lease period.
In February, Los Angeles City Council granted SpaceX a permit to build the facility by a unanimous 12-0 vote. SpaceX was expected to manufacture Starship at Terminal Island to speed up the spacecraft’s development.
Los Angeles Times reports a SpaceX official submitted a termination letter on March 27, stating that the permit agreement to lease the land was to be terminated by May 11. No other details have been released as to why SpaceX changed its mind about leasing the location. City officials said the site was expected to create 130 new jobs.
Prototypes of Starship are currently under construction in Texas at a SpaceX facility in a small village located in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, TX, along the border with Mexico.
The company is manufacturing a production line of many Starships to test out. Starship will be a massive stainless-steel launch vehicle capable of transporting one hundred passengers to the moon and Mars.
Engineers are currently working on the assembly of the fifth Starship prototype, referred to as SN5, which will undergo a series of pre-flight tests. If the Starship SN5 vehicle passes all pre-flight tests, it is expected to perform a 150-meter debut test flight above Boca Chica. The founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk, shared an aerial photograph of Boca Chica Beach calling it the “Gateway to Mars.”
Gateway to Mars— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2020
Musk envisions Starship will help enable life on the Red Planet. He sees Starship development as SpaceX’s top priority. He would like to accomplish building the first city on Mars in his lifetime. According to a recent CNBC report, Musk emailed his employees – “Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship.” He asked them to “consider spending significant time” in Boca Chica to help the company accelerate Starship development, “For those considering moving, we will always offer a dedicated SpaceX aircraft to shuttle people,” he wrote. "We need to accelerate Starship progress."
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.