Elon Musk’s woes aren’t slowing down, as Bloomberg has discovered that the Trump administration’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall would cut through the SpaceX launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The 50-acre facility, which received $20 million in incentives from the Texas state government, is being used to build and test a new spacecraft called the Starship, which Musk hopes will one day deploy from a SpaceX Falcon rocket and ferry passengers to Mars. The reusable, stainless-steel clad shuttle has been in the news recently for ignoble reasons, namely because it was knocked over by the strong Southern Texas winds last month. According to documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the border wall would cut directly through a SpaceX launchpad. Rio Grande Valley representatives are pushing to have the facility exempted from any border wall construction, but SpaceX has been conspicuously quiet—a company official told Bloomberg that SpaceX is trying to lie low and avoid drawing DHS’s attention. “The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently requested SpaceX permit access to our South Texas Launch site to conduct a site survey,” James Gleeson, a SpaceX spokesperson. “At this time, SpaceX is evaluating the request and is in communication with DHS to further understand their plans.” As negotiations over the fate of the border wall drag on (and break down), it remains to be seen whether lawmakers will be able to come to a compromise over border funding before February 15. After the record-breaking 35-day partial government shutdown was temporarily halted to give the House, Senate, and President time to maneuver on border security, it now appears that, if no agreement is reached, border wall construction could begin via a national emergency declaration. Regardless of whether Congress allocates $2 billion, the full $5.7 billion, or nothing, border wall construction has been previously funded in fits and starts. Even as deliberations in Washington drag on, the National Butterfly Center (also in the Rio Grande Valley area) filed an emergency restraining order this week as excavators began laying the groundwork for a 36-foot-tall wall that would cut through the nature sanctuary.
Posts tagged with "SpaceX":
Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk generated brouhaha in 2013 when he proposed a high-speed mass transit system that could travel at just under the speed of sound. “It’s a cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table,” Musk wrote in a white paper on the so-called Hyperloop, in which he conjectured a reduced-pressure tube design for transporting humans and freight between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just 35 minutes. The paper remained open-source, but neither Musk nor his companies, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, seemed interested in commercially developing the Hyperloop, despite spawning a slew of unaffiliated startups like Hyperloop Technologies and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. But all that is about to change. SpaceX is hosting a competition for students and independent engineers to build their own transport pod prototypes and try them on a one-mile test track the spacecraft manufacturer is building outside its Los Angeles headquarters. Entrants have until September 15 to submit designs for the competition, which will be held in June 2016. The design brief for the competition is available here. Prior to the competition, there will be a design weekend meetup in January at Texas A&M University for companies to network with entrants and potentially sponsor or contribute funds to the construction of a pod prototype. While the prototypes must be built to human scale, for safety reasons no one is permitted to ride them on the test track competition weekend. In his white paper Musk envisioned an elevated, reduced-pressure tube containing pressurized capsules which are driven by linear electric motors. Air bearings on the inner surface of the tube reduce friction, allowing the contraption to—gracefully—whoosh past at 760 mph. “Just as an aircraft climbs to high altitudes to travel through less dense air, Hyperloop encloses capsules in a reduced pressure tube,” Musk wrote. In the competition brief Musk underlines that neither he nor SpaceX is commercially developing a Hyperloop of its own; the competition, according to Musk, is merely to accelerate the development of a prototype.
Buckle up: the gap between commercial space travel and the present moment is rapidly narrowing. Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America (designed by Foster + Partners) recently signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration granting access to airspace in New Mexico, with designs to turn the ground beneath into a commercial spaceflight center. A major milestone in commercial space travel, the agreement arrives the same week as the unveiling of the Dragon V2, a manned spacecraft designed by SpaceX and Elon Musk. The cutting-edge capsule is a major step in building spacecraft that have the same touch-and-respond sensitivity as a helicopter. The Dragon's development fell beneath a NASA initiative to replace the retired Space Shuttle. Maybe it will be used at the new spaceport, also designed by SpaceX and Elon Musk, in Brownsville, South Texas?